Roman Charity

Hendrick ter Brugghen Dutch

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 621

A woman kneels to nurse her elderly father, his hands shackled behind his back. These are Cimon, a man sentenced to death by starvation, and his daughter Pero, who defied both the law and social taboo to save her father’s life. Recorded by the Roman historian Valerius Maximus, this potentially shocking episode was celebrated in seventeenth-century Europe as an exemplar of filial piety. Ter Brugghen emphasizes the solemnity of the scene at the same time as he hints at lurking danger through the inclusion of a barely visible voyeur figure in the background.

Roman Charity, Hendrick ter Brugghen (Dutch, The Hague? 1588–1629 Utrecht), Oil on canvas

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