The J. Paul Getty Museum

Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime

Object Details


Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime


Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (French, 1758 - 1823)




about 1805–1806


Oil on canvas

Object Number:



33 × 41 cm (13 × 16 1/8 in.)

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Object Description

A dead man lies sprawled across the foreground while blood seeps into the ground from a wound in his neck and his murderer flees with the victim's belongings in his arms. Above, Divine Vengeance, illuminating the way with a torch, and Justice, armed with sword and scales, pursue the criminal. Pierre-Paul Prud'hon made this study for a monumental painting destined to hang behind the judges' bench in the criminal courtroom of the Palace of Justice in Paris.

Prud'hon used quick, sweeping strokes of paint to lend movement and energy to the figures. Strong contrasts of light and dark accentuate the drama of the situation. Light from the moon illuminates the faces of the avenging personifications and highlights the torso of the dead man, while the face of the murderer is cast in darkness. Inspired by the Roman poet Horace's adage that "retribution rarely fails to pursue the evil man," Prud'hon conveyed the message that the course of justice is relentless if sometimes slow.

about 1805/1806 -

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, French, 1758 - 1823 (Paris), by gift to Nicolas-Thérèse-Benoît Frochot.

- 1828

Comte Nicolas-Thérèse-Benoît Frochot, 1761 - 1828 (Paris, France), by bequest to Hippolyte-Auguste Couvreux, 1828.

1828 -

Comte Hippolyte-Auguste Couvreux, by inheritance to his heirs.

- 1984

Heirs of Comte Hippolyte-Auguste Couvreux [sold, Sotheby Parke Bernet, Monte Carlo, March 5, 1984, lot 1106, to Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox Ltd., London.]


Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, Ltd. (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

Prud'hon: La Justice et la Vengeance divine poursuivant le Crime (May 15 to September 1, 1986)
  • Musée du Louvre (Paris), May 15 to September 1, 1986
Pierre Paul Prud'hon (March 10 to June 7, 1998)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), March 10 to June 7, 1998
Jefferson's America and Napoleon's France: An Exhibition for the Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial (April 12 to August 31, 2003)
  • New Orleans Museum of Art (New Orleans), April 12 to August 31, 2003

Clément, Charles. "Prud'hon: Sa vie, ses oeuvres et sa correspondance." Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 2nd ser., 3, no. 4 (April 1, 1870), p. 347n1.

Clément, Charles. Prud'hon: Sa vie, ses oeuvres et sa correspondance (Paris: Didier, 1872), p. 324n1.

Goncourt, Edmond de. Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, dessiné et gravé de P. P. Prud'hon (Paris: Rapilly, 1876; repr., Amsterdam: B. M. Israël, 1971), p. 166, under no. 77.

Guiffrey, Jean. P. P. Prud'hon: Peintures, pastels et dessins (Paris: Albert Morancé, 1924), p. 40, under no. 29.

Guiffrey, Jean. L'Oeuvre de Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (Paris: Armand Colin, 1924), p. 134, no. 366.

Weston, Helen. "Prud'hon: Justine and Vengeance." Burlington Magazine 117, no. 867 (June 1975), p. 358n24.

Art at Auction: The Year at Sotheby's, 1983-1984 (London and New York: Sotheby Publications, 1984), pp. 72-73, ill.

Sotheby Parke Bernet, Monaco. Tableaux anciens. March 5, 1984, pp. 160-61, lot 1106, ill.

"Acquisitions/1984." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 13 (1985), p. 212, no.143, ill.

"Calendar." Burlington Magazine 128, no. 994 (January 1986), p. 73.

Laveissière, Sylvain. "Prud'hon, la Justice et la Vengeance divine poursuivant le Crime." La Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 36, no. 2. (1986), p. 153.

Weston, Helen. "Paris: Prud'hon at the Louvre." Burlington Magazine 128, no. 1004 (November 1986), p. 849.

Laveissière, Sylvain. Prud'hon: La Justice et la Vengeance divine poursuivant le Crime, exh. cat. (Paris: Ministère de la culture et de la communication, with Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1986), pp. 4, 21, 33-34, 35-36, 38, 43, 100-1, no. 17, ill.

Brachlianoff, Dominique, ed. De Gericault à Leger: Dessins français des XIXe et XXe siècles dans les collections du Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon, exh. cat. (Lyon: Musée des beaux-arts, 1989), p. 94, under no. 70, entry by Dominique Brachlianoff.

Kirchner, Thomas. "Pierre-Paul Prud'hons 'La Justice et la Vengeance divine poursuivant le Crime': Mahnender Appell und ästhetischer Genuß." Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 54, no. 4 (1991), p. 572n96.

Brachlianoff, Dominique. The Real and the Spiritual: Nineteenth-Century French Drawings from the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, exh. cat. DeCourcy E. McIntosh, ed. Anne Bertrand, trans. (Pittsburgh: The Frick Art Museum, 1992), p. 134, under no. 67.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 100, ill.

Laveissière, Sylvain. Prud'hon (Paris: Flammarion, 1997), p. 64.

Laveissière, Sylvain. Prud'hon, ou le rêve du bonheur, exh. cat. (Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 1997), pp. 228, 231, no. 168, ill.

Laveissière, Sylvain. Pierre-Paul Prud'hon, exh. cat. Jean Marie Clarke, trans. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, with Harry N. Abrams, 1998), pp. 228, 231, no. 168, ill.

Guffey, Elizabeth E. Drawing an Elusive Line: The Art of Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (Newark: University of Delaware Press; London: Associated University Presses, 2001), pp. 137, 139, fig. 94.

Feigenbaum, Gail, et al. Jefferson's America & Napoleon's France: An Exhibition for the Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial, exh. cat. Victoria Cooke, ed. (New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art, with University of Washington Press, 2003), p. 146, no. 121, ill.