Invidia (the snake-eating woman) is consumed with envy at the sight of the lovers enjoying themselves. The Latin inscription translates: ‘Envy is an evil thing, execrable in and of itself, and neither the human race nor birds lack it’. Owls, which feature strongly in the foreground frieze of birds, were commonly used as symbols of foolishness and stupidity. Jan de Brune in his Bankketwerk van goede gedachten (Banquet of good thoughts, Middelburg, 1657) under thought CCLXXXIV - ‘Envy‘, writes:
‘De nijd maeckt ons, als een ellendigen nacht-uyl, die den dagh van eens anders gheluck niet en kan verdraghen...’ (Envy makes us like a miserable night owl, who cannot abide the day of others’ good fortune...)
We are grateful to Paul Taylor, of the Warburg Institute, for his thoughts on the subject of this picture.