Weekly proverb of the past: “Wrapped in a blue cloak”

This weeks proverb will be one that provided me with some confusion. The proverb is presented by Bruegel the elder by a man putting on a blue cloak:

blue cloak

The very same symbolism can be found in Bruegel the elders very famous painting “The dutch proverbs“, a painting also named “The Blue Cloak”. In this painting we see a man having a blue cloak being put on him by a woman:


When I first looked up this proverb, the meaning confused me slightly. To be “wrapped in a blue cloak” means “to be deceived”. This means that in the painting above, the man is being deceived by the woman, possibly his unfaithful wife.

But to me, I’ve always found the color blue during medieval times being associated as a positive color. In fact, the color blue is during history connected divinity and to the Virgin Mary – we often find her depicted in a blue robe, symbolizing piety, faith and chastity. But in fact the color blue in sakral contexts is a color that represents the secular earth, while red represents the divine. This is why we see Jesus often in a red robe (he is divinity) cloaked in a blue robe (secular earthly world). Virgin Mary have the opposite – she is dressed in blue (she a earthly woman) but is robed in divinity (a red cloak).

In this scenario, off course, the color blue in itself represents the deception. The wife is deceiving him by wrapping him blue. The same thing with the man in the first picture – he is ironically covering himself in a blue cloak, thus fooling himself.

We find men being cloaked in blue in more early modern depictions, so its seems the proverb kept its popularity:

A Flemish Proverb. 'A Wife Hiding Her Infidelity From Her Husband Under A Blue Cloak' Pieter Bruegel The Younger

A Flemish Proverb. ‘A Wife Hiding Her Infidelity From Her Husband Under A Blue Cloak’
Pieter Bruegel The Younger, late 16th century


De Blauwe Huyck (The Blue Cloak), 1577

4 thoughts on “Weekly proverb of the past: “Wrapped in a blue cloak”

  1. Pingback: Red – the color of the devil, the pope, the commoner or perhaps Martin Luther? | The Vulgar Crowd

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