Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, ca. 1525–1569)
Engraving; only state
8 7/8 x 11 1/2 in. (22.5 x 29.2 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1926 (26.72.34)
Representing the vice of sloth, this image belongs to a series of prints of the Seven Deadly Sins, engraved by Pieter van der Heyden after drawings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The personification of sloth, a shabbily dressed woman, demonstratively sleeps away the time in the central foreground, resting her weight on the back of an ass. The various examples of lazy or slothful behavior, in evidence in the surrounding landscape, colorfully demonstrate the message of the inscription below: "Sloth makes man powerless and dries out the nerves until man is good for nothing." Each of the seven prints follows a similar compositional scheme, with the personification of the vice accompanied by a symbolic animal in the foreground. Bruegel also adopted a common setting and "look" for the series by depicting each scene in the style of Hieronymus Bosch, to whom Bruegel was often compared. Sloth features an assortment of fantastic creatures and a confused arrangement of hybrid structures reminiscent of Bosch's work. This reminiscent style, employed consciously by Bruegel, contrasts sharply with the way he depicted The Seven Virtues, a series of prints executed in the following yearsall of them set in an accurate version of Bruegel's contemporary world.