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


33 x 41 cm (13 x 16 1/8 in.)

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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 Count 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 (Langres, France), 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) (Cat. 17)
  • Musée du Louvre, (Paris), May 15 to September 1, 1986
Pierre Paul Prud'hon (March 10 to June 7, 1998) (Cat. 168)
  • 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) (Cat. 121)
  • New Orleans Museum of Art, (New Orleans), April 12 to August 31, 2003