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

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.
ID #w-3648

Historical Description

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.