“Zur Herkunft und Verwurzelung der ‘Grillen’. Vom Volksmythos zum Kunst- und Literaturtheoretischen Begriff, 15.-17. Jahrhundert” (Paul Vandenbroeck) 1987
[in: De Zeventiende Eeuw, 3 (1987), pp. 52-84]
From the end of the fifteenth century on ‘grillos’ (literally: whims, fancies) in the pictorial arts were mainly seen as monstrous insects that symbolized evil and folly. This double symbolism can be explained by means of late-medieval intellectualistic-formalist ethics (folly = sin) and by means of the ethymology of the word grillo (literally: cricket, figuratively: foolish behaviour). The double meaning of the word is not only based on homonymy, though. Also late-medieval ‘wild thinking’, which because of the analogy tree / man considered insects to be the cause of madness, played a role in this.
Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century art historians adopted the word grillo, legitimized it by referring to ancient sources and associated it with the lower classes (resulting in pejorative connotations).