Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Justice from The World of Seven Virtues, c.1559

Signed Pieter Brueghel the Elder engraving, Justice from The World of Seven Virtues, c.1559

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Artist:Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525 - 1569)

Title:Justice from The World of Seven Virtues, c.1559

Reference:Bastelaer 135

Medium:Original Engraving

Image Size:11 1/2 in x 8 15/16 in (29.1 cm x 22.6 cm)

Sheet Size:11 1/2 in x 8 15/16 in (29.1 cm x 22.6 cm)

Framed Size:Approx. 28 3/4 in x 26 1/8 in (73cm x 66.4cm)

Edition:This print is a state b (of II) and features the text plate along the lower margin; with full 'stag' watermark.

Condition:This work is in good condition; repaired with expert conservation not affecting the image.

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Gallery Price:
Item # 3648
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Historical Description of this artwork

At first glance, the modern viewer will likely see in this original etching a satirical commentary on the means of justice implemented in the 16th century Netherlands. As Arthur Klein points out, however, the composition is actually a serious, detailed overview, “of grim but not reprehensible social practices” (126). The Latin inscription at the bottom of the composition confirms this interpretation, noting “The aim of law is either to correct him who is punished, or to improve others by his punishment”(Bastelaer, 180). Images of thieves’ hands being cut off and criminals being hanged shock us but, Klein reminds us, images of the electric chair may appear equally gruesome in the future.

This engraving, attributed to the burin of Philip Galle, was created after an original drawing by Brueghel. A Bastelaer state B (of II) and Lebeer state II (of II), this work bears a full ‘stag’ watermark at the lower left edge, as well as the Latin inscription: “SCOPVS LEGIS EST, AVT UT EU QUE PVNIT EMENDET, AVT POENA EIVS CATEROS MELIORES REDDET AVT SVBLATIS MALIS CAETERI SECVRIORES VIVAT.” This print was neither signed nor dated upon its creation.


1) Van Bastelaer, René. The Prints of Peter Bruegel the Elder, Catalogue Raisonné New Edition. San Francisco: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, 1992. Image listed as plate 135 on p. 180.

2) Briquet, Charles Moïse. Les Filigranes: Dictionnaire Historique Des Marque du Papier de leur apparition vers 1282 jusqu’en 1600, Tome I A-Ch. Maurizio Martino: Mansfield Center. Stag listed and illustrated as catalogue raisonné no’s. 3284-3338.

3) Klein, H. Arthur. Graphic Worlds of Peter Bruegel the Elder. New York: Dover Publications, 1963. Image listed as plate 51 on pp. 126-27.

4) Lavalleye, Jacques. Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Image listed as Bruegel 65.

5) Longstreet, Stephen. A Treasury of the World’s Great Prints. 1961. Listed as image 21 on p. 46.

7) A Certificate of Authenticity will accompany this work.

Framed to archival museum grade conservation standards, this piece is framed in a complementary moulding with silk mats and optical grade Plexiglas.

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The Certificate of Authenticity accompanies this work, guaranteeing its authenticity for as long as you own it.

All catalogue raisonné and historical documentation is included with your purchase.

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Why Brueghel the Elder?

Popular in his own day, works by this remarkable engraver and painter are full of zest and fine detail with few comparable parallels in European art.

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Artistic Styles of Brueghel the Elder

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Pieter Brueghel the Elder Complete Biography

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Pieter Brueghel the Elder Engravings and Paintings
Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525-1569)

Pieter Brueghel the Elder Biography

Pieter Brueghel (1525-69), usually known as Pieter Brueghel the Elder to distinguish him from his elder son, was the first in a family of Flemish painters. You’ll often find his name spelled as Bruegel (Pieter spelled it like that from 1559 onwards) or Breugel or Breughel.

He was born in Breda in the Duchy of Brabant, which is now part of The Netherlands but back then part of the Flanders.

Note: Flanders or Vlaanderen and the Netherlands (aka known as Holland) or Nederland share the same language. It’s called Flemish, or “Vlaams” in Belgium and Dutch, or “Nederlands” in The Netherlands. And the name Holland, although it’s often taken to mean the whole of the Netherlands, is really part of that country only, the area of the provinces called Zuid Holland and Noord Holland (South and North Holland).

Brueghel was accepted as a master in the Antwerp painters’ guild in 1551, after being an apprentice of Coecke van Aelst, a leading Antwerp artist, sculptor, architect, and designer of tapestry and stained glass. Brueghel traveled to Italy in 1551 or 1552, completing a number of paintings, mostly landscapes, there. Returning home in 1553, he settled in Antwerp but ten years later moved permanently to Brussels. He married van Aelst’s daughter, Mayken, in 1563. His paintings, including his landscapes and scenes of peasant life, stress the absurd and vulgar, yet are full of zest and fine detail. They also expose human weaknesses and follies. He was sometimes called the Peasant Brueghel. But it was in nature that he found his greatest inspiration. His mountain landscapes have few parallels in European art. Popular in his own day, Bruegel prints have remained consistently popular. Pieter Brueghel the Elder died in Brussels on Sept. 9, 1569.

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