In 1559 and 1560 Pieter Bruegel the Elder drew the designs for a series of prints depicting the seven virtues. The prints were engraved around the same time by Philips Galle and were published in Antwerp by Hieronymus Cock. The museum owns three of the preparatory drawings. The subtle, linear drawing style formed the starting point for Galle’s more tonal 'painterly’ interpretation in print form.
Charity holds a heart in her hand. On her head sits a pelican, a bird that was historically believed to feed its young with its own blood in times of famine. Around the figure are the seven works of charity: feeding the hungry, refreshing the thirsty, receiving travellers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, comforting prisoners and burying the dead.