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Prudentia (Prudence) from the series The Seven Virtues (after Pieter Brueghel the Elder)

Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion

Prudentia (Prudence) from the series The Seven Virtues (after Pieter Brueghel the Elder)

Artist: Philip Galle (Flemish, 1537–1612)
Culture: Flemish
Date: 1559–1560
Medium: Engraving on paper
Image: 8 1/4 x 11 1/2 inches (21 x 29.2 cm)
Sheet: 8 3/4 x 11 1/2 inches (22.2 x 29.2 cm)
Mat: 17 x 18 3/8 inches (43.2 x 46.7 cm)
Classification: Print
Credit Line: Museum Purchase, Nanci Leila Weldon ’64 Memorial Fund
Label Text:This print belongs to a series illustrating the seven virtues. Prudence refers to wisdom, or the ability to distinguish between good and evil. The Latin inscription along the bottom of the print explains, “If you wish to be prudent, think always of the future, and weigh all conceivable outcomes.” At the engraving’s center, Prudence balances atop a pile of ladders. She holds a coffin—a reminder of death—in one hand and a mirror—for self-reflection—in the other. A colander (to sort good from evil) rests on her head. A flurry of activity surrounds Prudence, as townspeople wisely scurry to prepare for the future. To the right, a group of men and women cure meat to eat another day. Behind her, men repair a house and gather timber for the winter. To the left, a man on his deathbed has prudently called both a priest and a doctor to his side. The meaning of other figures is more ambiguous: is the man emptying gold into a chest an example of saving for the future, or does he represent greed? Such figures were likely intended to provoke such reflections.

Philip Galle was an engraver working under the print merchant Hieronymous Cock, who is credited with transforming printmaking into an organized and profitable trade. Galle created this work after an original engraving by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, an artist known for his highly detailed paintings depicting allegorical or satirical content in landscape settings. The series this work comes from was intended for commercial circulation and would have been collected by the faithful, who would have meditated on its spiritual and practical implications and looked to it as a reminder of how to live.

Object number: 1972.4.1
In Collection(s)