Whether this scene was intended to convey anything beyond its obvious whimsy is uncertain. Fables and moralities abounded throughout the Middle Ages, satirizing those who attempted functions for which they were totally unsuited, as, for example, an illiterate working as a librarian. Here, the composition brings to mind alphabets by such artists as the Master E.S., in which the letters are formed by contorted figures or by the arrangement of everyday objects. With its seriflike corners, the tabletop resembles the letter I. Are the apes in the process of deconstructing an alphabet?
[ Galerie de Chartres, Chartres] ; [ Galerie für Glasmalerei, Zurich (sold 1990)]
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. "Earth, Sea, Sky. Nature in Western Art: Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 6, 2012–January 4, 2013.
Beijing. National Museum of China. "Earth, Sea, Sky. Nature in Western Art: Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 8, 2013–May 9, 2013.
Husband, Timothy B., and Madeline H. Caviness, ed. Stained Glass Before 1700 in American Collections: Silver-Stained Roundels and Unipartite Panels (Corpus Vitrearum Checklist IV). Studies in the History of Art, Vol. 39. Washington, D.C.: National Art Gallery, 1991. p. 132.
Wixom, William D., ed. Mirror of the Medieval World. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999. no. 244, p. 202.
Norris, Michael. Medieval Art: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. p. 24, fig. 16.
Barnet, Peter, and Atsuyuki Nakahara, ed. Earth, Sea, Sky: Nature in Western Art – Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Tokyo: Yomiuri Shimbun, 2012. no. 49, pp. 102, 227.