Joachim Beuckelaer’s Four Elements


The Four Elements: Water. A Fish Market with the Miraculous Draught of Fishes in the Background (1560–1574).

Flemish artist Joachim Beuckelaer (1533–1574) depicts the four elements using foodstuffs. All four paintings can be explored via Google’s Art Project.


The Four Elements: Fire. A Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Martha and Mary in the Background (1560–1574).


The Four Elements: Earth. A Fruit and Vegetable Market with the Flight into Egypt in the Background (1560–1574).


The Four Elements: Air. A Poultry Market with the Prodigal Son in the Background (1560–1574).

5 thoughts on “Joachim Beuckelaer’s Four Elements”

  1. Fish = Water
    Birds = Air
    Fruit & Veg = Earth but what’s representing Fire? Just the kitchen?

  2. Yes, fire seems to be a bit of an evasion in this series, you’d expect food being cooked at least.

  3. These are some of my favourite paintings in the National Gallery – I’m always surprised by the range of foods, especially in the Earth panel, although I suspect not everything would be in season at once, rather like those large flower paintings that have roses and snowdrops together. The red cabbages look a bit faded; I wonder if he used a lake pigment that has since faded?

    Gabriel – the meat in the Fire painting is all going to be roasted at the fire in the background, I suppose.

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