BRUEGEL, Pieter the Elder
(b. ca. 1525, Brogel, d. 1569, Brussel)

Dulle Griet (detail)

c. 1562
Oil on wood
Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp

The large woman in the foreground, with her suit of armour, sword, cutlery and money-box has been variously interpreted as a symbol of heresy or violence, the personification of human evil and an allegory of instability.

While her female followers loot a house, Griet advances towards the mouth of Hell through a landscape populated by Boschian monsters. They represent the sins that are punished there. Griet wears male armour - a breastplate, a mailed glove and a metal cap; her military costume is parodied by the monster in a helmet beside her, who pulls up a drawbridge. A knife hangs from her side, while in her right hand she carries a sword, which may refer to the saying: 'He could go to Hell with a sword in his hand'.