Elck (Everyone) and Nemo (No one ): A mirror for 2022

‘Elck’ or ‘Everyman’, study for a print; five figures labelled ‘Elck’ are rummaging through a pile of bales and objects, a bearded old man at centre wearing spectacles and examining a lamp, another figure searching in a sack in left background, another in a barrel in right foreground, and another at left in a basket, behind at right two ‘Elcks’ are having a tug-of-war, an army and tents in the distance.

Elck in Dutch means ‘each’ or ‘everyone’ and the scenes in this drawing illustrate proverbs or sayings. The central proverb concerns Elck who vainly seeks himself in the objects of this world as he stands over a broken globe. With a lantern he searches through a pile of barrels and bales, a game board, cards and objects which signify the distractions of life. To the right, two more Elck figuren play tug af war with a roper illustrating the saying, ‘each tugs for the Iongest end’. In the background on a mail hangs a picture which continues the moral theme_ It shows a fool sitting among a pile of broken household objects gazing at himself in a mirror.

He is Nemo or Nobody, as the inscription below him inforrns us: ‘Nobody knows hirnself”.

This is one of many moral drawings (and paintings) by Pieter Bruegel. Here, he condemns the selfish pursuit of worldly goods but he allso shows, through the picture of the fool, a way af conquering this vice. Only through self-knowledge can Elck free himself from the world’s vanities.

Discerning an understanding between Non-Virtues and Virtues is  needed in our times. And the works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder can help us to find an answer.

Five hundred years ago, there were a number of artists in The Netherlands who saw the beauty in daily life. And more than that: these artists were so talented that their depictions of the commonplace succeeded in making others receptive to it. There and then, in the 53 years between the death of Hieronymus Bosch (1516) and that of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1569) lies the origins of our unquenchable interest for ourselves, the devious and the other. Read more here

To See Yourself within It: Bruegel’s Festival of Fools

The topics of blindness and self-awareness for our time. Read more here