A Plateful of Fools

30.03. – 31.10.2023
(extended December 23 to March 24)



The Ambras Fools’ Plate set in scene...  

Among the treasures still preserved in the Ambras Kunst- und Wunderkammer (Chamber of Art and Wonders) is a particularly 'foolish' piece: the Ambras 'Narrenteller' (Fools’ Plate). The painted wooden plate, created around 1528, is an amazing document of the carnival of the early 16th century and a truly unique specimen in the visual arts!  

The passionate collector Archduke Ferdinand II therefore did not miss to buy this special object. He acquired the Fools' Plate in 1577 from Hannibal Graf zu Hohenems in order to bring it to Ambras Castle and presumably give it to his beloved Philippine Welser. 

A “foolish” film project

But where did the idea for this curious work come from? Who commissioned the plate? And in what environment did it come into being? Prof. Dr. Werner Mezger, German Germanist and Ethnologist, produced the short film "Unvernunft wird niemals sterben" (Stupidity will never die) using high-resolution footage from the Kunsthistorisches Museum. 

In it, not only are all the individual scenes of the plate and their exciting stories shown in detail, but also these very questions are addressed. 
With the special presentation 'A Plateful of Fools', the unique object will be staged on the basis of this short film as well as a digital and interactive presentation from 30.03. to 31.10.2023. 

The plate in detail 

At first glance, it seems to be a confused jumble of almost 60 figures and numerous scenes, a closer look reveals an ingenious system as well as precisely thought-out connections in the painterly design. 

The origin of all fools 

Looking at the bottom of the plate, a woman, the so-called Mother of Fools, can be seen in the foreground with a dog-eared tiara on her head and a necklace with a golden jester's head pendant around her neck. Around her there are her seven sons, all of them being fools with their own stories. The everyday scenes in the background also show how they dealt with a world full of fools. The mill, for example, was seen as a symbol of the destruction of the old and its subsequent rebirth – as it is illustrated by the miller's flour sifter containing the three jesters' bells as its contents also illustrates. 

Folly is immortal 

The eight scenes surrounding the plate deal with the problem of whether and how foolishness can be eliminated. However, neither drastic measures such as head surgery or gouging nor washing or shackling offer any remedy. After seven futile attempts to banish foolishness, it is sown anew in the eighth scene and the fool only grows donkey ears again. Foolishness cannot be eradicated - the more one tries, the more of it is born.

Come and visit the special presentation 'A Plateful of Fools' from 30.03. to 31.10.2023 daily from 10.00 to 17.00 at Schloss Ambras Innsbruck! 

A Plateful of Fools

Ambras Castle
Schlossstraße 20
6020 Innsbruck

Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Closed in november

Information for your visit

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