Artworks and Artists
As the Old Sing, So the Young Pipe

As the Old Sing, So the Young Pipe,
c. 1640
Jordaens, Jacob
oil on canvas
145.5 x 218 cm


This painting illustrates the Flemish proverb "As the old sing, so the young pipe", meaning that children will imitate their elders. The painting shows a scene of boisterous indulgence that one might hesitate to recommend as ideal, and thus works as an effective reminder that the young will imitate a bad example as readily as a good one. The theme is reinforced with symbols, such as the parrot who unthinkingly repeats whatever it hears. The proverb is illustrated yet again by the juxtaposition, in the centre of the painting, of the flautist with the young child imitating him directly below. Other symbols are depicted as weIl: the themes of life and death are underscored by the ephemeral nature of the flowers and the extinguished candle. The painting is decidedly moral in tone.