Hell hath no fury: how to plunder the underworld

Ransom Riggs

If you've caught our recent references to The Temptation of St. Anthony and the oeuvre of James Ensor, you'll know we've been on something of a Disturbing Old Paintings kick of late. But Ensor's dancing skeletons and Anthony's nightmare creatures have nothing on Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Dulle Griet (short for Dulle Griet, Who is Looking at the Mouth of Hell, AKA Mad Meg). Whence this nightmarish vision? Assuming Bruegel wasn't snacking on tainted rye while painting, he probably took a cue from a traditional Flemish folktale about a peasant woman who leads a female army to plunder Hell. In the painting she wears a soldier's breastplate over her dress, hair streaming from under a helmet, and runs across a landscape toward the mouth of Hell -- emerging grotesquely from the side of a hill -- with a sword in one hand and bundles of modest loot -- food, iron, pots and pans -- in the other.

The whole painting, and some fun context, after the jump:

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