The paintings of the still anonymous Master of the Fertility of the Egg (Il Maestro della Fertilità dell’Uovo) are often associated with those of Faustino Bocchi (1659-1741) and his circle. However, the satirical content and symbolic meanings of his paintings are expressed in a unique and unusual style.
In this painting we find the black pig in a hammock that bears an inscription reading: “Be quiet / the pig sleeps”. Below this, several scenes are shown which seem to have negative connotations. Compare, for instance, the second rendering of the black pig that is about to kill a cock. The general meaning of the painting is more difficult to decipher than the other two works but it seems very likely that the underlying statement is similar to the saying: “When the cat is away the mice will play”. It is tempting to transfer this general meaning to a socio-political level and read the painting as a plea for a strong central power in order to prevent the society from descending into chaos.
The name of the painter derives from a painting in the Milwaukee Art Museum, titled The Fertility of the Egg. There is no documentary evidence regarding this master and the painter’s identity is still in question. Based on his XVII century manner of painting and Northern style some scholars have suggested that the painter may have been a predecessor of Faustino Bocchi.
The Master could be seen as the inventor of a “moral zoology”, emphasizing the madness of human condition and the vanity and ridiculousness inherent in life by depicting seemingly absurd characters. The contents and style of the Master are typical of the XVII century.