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‘It all Turns to Shit’ – The Land of Cockaigne in Sixteenth-Century German Woodcuts

Cockaigne, the legendary land of plenty, formed a sub-theme of popular depictions
of gluttony in sixteenth-century prints. These images combined carnivalesque
exuberance and moralising caution, illustrating both excessive consumption
and its ill efffects, from inappropriately lascivious or slothful behaviour to the
physical need to expel from top and bottom. Scatological motifs emphasised the
grotesque nature of Cockaigne, providing laughter while also warning viewers
of the consequences of gluttonous behaviour in the here and now: that spending
on fleeting pleasure will reduce fortunes to shit. These themes are explored here
chiefly through an exceptionally large mid-sixteenth-century German woodcut
now in the New York Public Library, as well as two related woodcuts by Peter
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, Renaissance