The three guardians of the Museum: Horen, Zien en Spreken
Their names derive from turning upside down the Flemish saying: "Horen, Zien en Zwijgen" ,or literally: “Hear, See and Be Silent”. In English, one rather uses the saying: “See no, Hear no, Speak no Evil”, which derives from a Japanese proverb “Mi-zaru, Kika-zaru, Iwa-zaru”. In Japenese, “Zaru” is a post-fix to indicate a negation. It sounds like “saru” which means “ape”. From there, probably, the representation of the proverb by three little monkeys covering their eyes, ears and mouth. The basis of it all seems anyway to derive from Confucius’ Code of Conduct (about 500 years BCE).The Flemish original version “Horen, Zien en Zwijgen” explicitly refers to a popular interpretation of the proverb: “Turn a blind eye to what is wrong.” That interpretation is even more explicit in a medieval version in Latin: “Audi, vide, tace, si vis vivere in pace”. But often, one cannot remain silent and one has to speak (Cat. Nr. 92).
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