The Ambras Fools Plate

The so-called Ambras Fools' Plate is an ornamental wooden plate painted in 1528 with scenes of fools. It is attributed to Bertel Kesselschmid, from the circle of Jörg Breu the Elder (1475–1537), and it is now preserved in Ambras Castle in Innsbruck, Austria.

The plate features various scenes with over 60 figures that reveal aspects of foolishness and underscore how foolishness is immortal in the world.

The central scene shows a river landscape with a central female figure with arms outstretched in the midst of seven fools of all ages. A nearby inscription identifies her as the fools' mother - an identity that she proudly boasts by displaying the golden fools badge around her neck. She exemplifies how foolishness enters the world. 

The marginal decorations show worldly efforts to get rid of folly, whether through surgery, or through hitting, or by attempting to squeeze it out of the body. But all efforts fail, in the end, and foolishness persists, eventually arising anew in the world. 

Explore this fascinating object and the intricacies of its iconography through this interactive video

If the topics of fools and foolishness interest you, be sure to check out issue 12 of Medieval World: Culture & Conflict, which includes content related to foolishness during medieval feasts. It includes special articles on the medieval Feast of Fools, for example, and much more! 

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