Temperance (Temperantia) from The Virtues

Philips Galle (Netherlandish, Haarlem 1537–1612 Antwerp)
After Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Netherlandish, Breda (?) ca. 1525–1569 Brussels)
Hieronymus Cock (Netherlandish, Antwerp ca. 1510–1570 Antwerp)
Engraving; first state of two
Sheet: 9 5/8 x 12 5/16 in. (24.4 x 31.2 cm)
Plate: 8 3/4 x 11 7/16 in. (22.3 x 29.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1926
Accession Number:
Not on view
Bruegel’s design for Temperance depicts a maelstrom of human activity collapsed into an impossible space. Figures crowd the print in clusters of activity that bleed into one another, from choir singers accompanied by a small orchestra to actors performing for a rapt audience to cosmographers futilely attempting to measure a smoke-billowing, swiftly rotating earth. Groups of surveyors occupy the rightmost edge of the image, gauging fortifications and artillery, while in the foreground students furiously read and transcribe texts, and lenders busily settle their accounts. Anything but temperate, the image juxtaposes the central figure—a personification of temperance and the virtue upon which the study of the liberal arts was supposed to be based—with the chaotic reality of human experience.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Picturing Math: Selections from the Department of Drawings and Prints," January 31, 2017–May 1, 2017.

Van Bastelaer 138; NH(Bruegel) 35.19.i; NH(Galle) part II.267.315.i; Riggs 320.32; Lebeer 37