In Praise of Folly 
Nine inside Illustrations, cover and binding design. Commissioned by Sheri Gee for Folio. In Praise of Folly' was written in 1512 by Desiderius Erasmus, a humanist thinker and social commentator and is is both the most notorious and in some ways the most characteristic work of the greatest European intellectual of the sixteenth century. (Eamon Duffy)


‘In Praise of Folly’ was first illustrated by Hans Holbein the Younger. My idea was to use Holbein’s work as the basis for a series of new collage as the ‘stages’ or backgrounds. I removed the ‘action’ that Holbein had depicted and created my own – new actors performing on a much older stage.Erasmus’ writing is darkly humourous and uses rhetoric -  puns, metaphor and allusions. Double or triple meanings occur throughout In Praise of Folly, and my visuals try to echo this aspect – where an image or object may signify more than one thing. In my illustrations, the intention can be hidden or obvious, veiled or direct.

When I was thinking about the character of ‘Folly’, I looked at different places, characterisations and enactments of who Folly was and where she might be found. I looked across time and in different cultures, and especially at the discovery of truth through misrule, mockery and excess. I looked at the Fool, the Jester, commedia dell’arte, Pierrot, the Folies Bergère, the Mardi Gras carnival, and also more recent characters like Carmen Miranda, the Cat in the Hat and ‘jester punk’ Malcolm McLaren.



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Matthew Richardson Artist + Illustrator
© Matthew Richardson 2021