Triumph and ignominy

War, with all its horrors, has long dominated Europe. Barely one century has known peacetime. The haunting images created by Renaissance and Baroque artists to illustrate this theme borrow heavily from the ancient world.


Graphic arts and prints show how various lands and spoils are divided up after a military conflict. The big winners are warlords and generals. Simple soldiers usually go empty-handed. Triumphal processions are celebrations for the people, but they primarily serve to glorify the ruler. And yet there are mocking images among them: some depict the captain of truth and some the clown of foolishness.


The Large Miseries of War, Title Page, 1633

Jacques Callot (1592–1635)

The Lorraine engraver Jacques Callot had witnessed many impacts of war throughout his lifetime, and he summarized them in an 18-part series which he called Les Grand Misères de la Guerre – “The Great Horrors of War”.  more...

Distribution of Rewards

Jacques Callot (1592–1635)

Jacques Callot describes the distribution of goods through the topos of the “just ruler”, who rewards the good, and severely punishes the bad.  more...

Constantine’s Triumphal Procession after Defeating Maxentius, 1715

Nicolas Henri Tardieu (1674–1749)

In a procession replete with pomp and circumstance from right to left, Constantine the Great makes himself the cause of public celebration. With this victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, he becomes the sole ruler of the Western Roman Empire.  more...

Two Designs for Decorative Plates, 1577/78: Captain of Wisdom and Captain of Folly

Theodor de Bry (1528–c. 1598)

These elaborate and highly decorative depictions feature two political opponents juxtaposed with each other under the titles Captain of Wisdom and Captain of Foolishness.  more...

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