The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Seven Acts of Mercy: Freeing the Prisoners

Object Details

Title:

The Seven Acts of Mercy: Freeing the Prisoners

Artist/Maker:

Pieter Cornelisz. (Kunst) (Dutch, about 1484 - 1560/1561)

Culture:

Dutch

Date:

1532

Medium:

Pen and black ink over black chalk

Object Number:

92.GA.77

Dimensions:

23 × 16.8 cm (9 1/16 × 6 5/8 in.)

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Object Description

To secure the release of the prisoners on the left, a generous man hands a coin to an official holding a long rod. A guard unlocks the shackles from a man crouched on the ground, while two more wait to be liberated from the stocks. In the darkness above their heads a candle gleams brightly, contrasting with the desolate vignette of the gallows in the upper right. The drawing shows one of the Seven Acts of Mercy described by Christ in the Bible, through which the righteous would be saved at the Last Judgment.

Pieter Cornelisz. Kunst decided to eliminate the figure of Christ from the scene and to fill it instead with contemporary figures. Both the official and the kind stranger wear garments possessed by most middle-class merchants in the Netherlands in the 1500s: long overcoats shaped like a clergyman's cassock over a short tunic and hose. The artist also used clear gestures and facial expressions to silently convey the narrative content. He prepared this design for a stained-glass window.

Provenance
Provenance
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July 2, 1991
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Art Market London

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
16th Century Ornamental Drawings (June 1 to August 14, 1994)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), June 1 to August 14, 1994
Made for Manufacture: Drawings for Sculpture and the Decorative Arts (February 6 to May 20, 2007)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 6 to May 20, 2007
Made for Manufacture: Drawings for Sculpture and the Decorative Arts (March 31 to July 5, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 31 to July 5, 2009