As early as the sixteenth century, depictions of animals imitating human behaviour and thus making a joke of it were popular. Teniers was following this tradition in these depictions of monkeys who have taken over a cellar storeroom and a tavern. Their colourful clothing and plumed hats lend a clownish character to them that is further emphasised by the earnestness with which they are pursuing their activities.
In the kitchen scene they are seated around a table. One of the monkeys is meticulously cutting slices of a pie, while another is affectedly holding a fine wine glass in its hand. A chicken is being shared on the floor, while another monkey takes on the role of a servant shucking oysters. In the background, cooks are roasting various cuts of meat over a fire in the fireplace.
The scene in the wine cellar (inv. no. 814) is more critical in its lampoon of human misconduct: the pipes and the tobacco strewn over the floor refer to smoking, which was ascribed with a dehydrating effect that was countered with the increased consumption of alcoholic beverages. The monkey who is about to
fill a jug with wine from the barrel in the background indicates this.
Other versions of the pendants in Madrid are executed with much more detail than the Aschaffenburg panels, which are likely workshop productions.