Pieter Bruegel The Elder > Patientia (patience)

Bruegel Patience 1557

Bruegel patience 1557

>in lower margin> Patience is the tranquil endurance of evils that assail you or happen to you.

(click to enlarge)

Patience gazes upward, holding a cross; she sits chained to a block, much like a prisoner awaiting execution. The landscape around her is overrun with fantastic creatures. Out of a large hollow egg at the edge of the river emerges a figure possibly meant to symbolize a papal envoy, as he wears a cardinals hat displaying the crossed keys of St Peter associated with the papal coat of arms, and a message or bull with dangling seals is inserted in his belt at the back. A man on horseback reads aloud what appears to be a papal bull, while a monk next to him holds a bundle of twigs over a blinded corpse in the river. A village with a church is burning. Under a covering in a large tree one monk meets with a prostitute and another fills a pitcher of wine. Beneath the tree hooded creatures dance. The river scape background with a village and a city visible in the distance presents a remarkably peaceful contrast to the unsettling scene in the foreground.
It seems clear from the clerical imagery that Bruegel intended to make a statement of some sort about contemporary religious conflict in the Netherlands. Some of the imagery may refer to the oppressive authority of the ecclesiastical establishment, while monks drinking and carousing in the tree certainly represent the dissolute life of some clerics. Bruegels own religious and political beliefs have long remained a puzzle, but in this print, at least, he revealed certain of his attitudes by making a plea for endurance and patience in the face of extremely oppressive political climate of the day. (click image below for high res)


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