BRUEGEL, Pieter the Elder
(b. ca. 1525, Brogel, d. 1569, Brussel)

The Land of Cockaigne (detail)

Oil on panel
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Bruegel here represents Never-Never Land, where everything is done for the inhabitant and all there is to do is sleep. His targets are gluttony and sloth; in Dutch the Land of Cockaigne is Luikkerland {lui meaning lazy and lekker, gluttonous). Bruegel has here returned to his earlier Bosch-derived idiom, and in this respect the painting recalls The Netherlandish Proverbs.

When an engraving of The Land of Cockaigne was published by Hieronymus Cock, a Flemish verse was added to underline the message:

All you loafers and gluttons always lying about Farmer, soldier and clerk, you live without work. Here the fences are sausages, the houses are cake, And the fowl fly roasted, ready to eat.

All three characters are here: the clerk lying on his fur robe, ink and pen at his waist, book beside him; the peasant sleeping on his flail; and the soldier with lance and gauntlet lying useless beside him. Beneath the clerk and the peasant runs an egg, already half-eaten; empty eggshells in Bruegel, as in Bosch, are symbolic of spiritual sterility. Behind the sleepers a roast goose lays itself down on a silver platter to be eaten. To its right a traveller has reached Luikkerland; he has eaten his way through a mountain of pudding and is swinging down with the aid of a conveniently placed tree. The fence at the edge of the sleepers' enclosure is woven out of sausages.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.