Sometimes also called ‘The Cripples’, Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted The Beggars towards the end of his career.
It depicts a group of five crippled men, and a woman who appears to be able-bodied at the back who appears to be a beggar, with her head turned away from them.
The strange painting has been gazed at over the centuries in an attempt to understand its meaning – the crippled boys all wear different types of hats: a crown, a soldier’ shako, a bishop’s mitre, a beret, and a cap – perhaps it is to represent the various classes? Perhaps it is part of some kind of carnival or stage performance?
Not much is known about the painting’s ownership until 1892 when art critic Paul Mantz gifted Peter Briegel the Elder’s The Beggars to the Louvre in Paris France, where it remains on display today.