- Museum number
'Elck' or 'Everyman', study for a print; five figures 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. 1558
Pen and brown ink, partly indented for transfer
- Production date
Height: 209 millimetres
Width: 292 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Finished drawing in reverse for an engraving probably by van der Heyden (Bastelaer 152); first state BM impression, 1866,0407.16
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 figures play tug of war with a rope, illustrating the saying, 'each tugs for the longest end'. In the background on a wall 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 informs us: 'Nobody knows himself.' This is one of many moral drawings (and paintings) by Pieter Bruegel. Here, he condemns the selfish pursuit of worldly goods but he also shows, through the picture of the fool, a way of conquering this vice. Only through self-knowledge can Elck free himself from the world's vanities.
Lit.: Waagen, IV, 1857, p.40; H.A. Klein, Graphic Worlds of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1963, pp.86-87, cat.no.34; Walter S. Gibson, 'Speaking Deeds: Some Proverb Drawings by Pieter Bruegel and His Contemporaries', in Drawing XIV/4, Nov-Dec. 1992, pp.73-6, fig.3, note 3; H. Mielke, Pieter Bruegel Die Zeichnungen, 1996, no.41; Nadine M. Orenstein (ed.), 'Pieter Bruegel the Elder: Drawings and Prints', exhibition catalogue, The Metropolitan Museum of Arts New York and Museum Boijmans van Beuningen Rotterdam, cat.no.58; Elke Oberthaler et al., 'Bruegel: the hand of the master' exhibition catalogue, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, 2018, no. 33.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1973, BM, Netherlandish prints and drawings (no cat.)
1980, Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 'Bruegel: une dynastie de peintres' cat. no. 35.
2001, Sept-Dec, New York, Met Mus Art, 'Pieter Bruegel the Elder', cat.58
2004 Jan-April, London, National Gallery, 'Bosch and Bruegel:...'
2017 11 Feb-4 Jun, Bath, The Holburne Museum, Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty
2017-18 Sept-Jan, BM, G90, The Business of Prints
2018-2019 2 Oct-6 Jan, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Pieter Bruegel the Elder
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number