Calumny of Apelles by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

This drawing is the sole surviving classical drawing by Bruegel.


Pen & brown ink with brown wash on brown paper
20.2 x 30.6 cm
Art Fund grant:
£963 ( Total: £1,925)
Acquired in:

It is inspired by a legendary lost picture of the Greek painter Apelles as described by Lucian, the Roman writer of the second century AD and depicts the power of ignorance and deceit to mask the truth. Seated on the right, there is Prince Ptolemeus on his throne, with greatly enlarged ears, surrounded by his female advisers Ignorance and Suspicion. Before him, with a foot on the platform of the throne, is Lyvor (Envy), pointing towards the prince and gesturing for silence. Followed by Insidia (Guile) and Fallacia (Deceit), Calumny stands behind them bearing a torch on the one hand and pulling a child with the other. At the extreme left, Penitencia (Repentance) gazes back shredding tears of shame towards the Truth.


Unknown - sold with a parcel of Italian drawings at Sotheby's 1959.

Venue details

British Museum Great Russell Street, LONDON London WC1B 3DG 020 7323 8181

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