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1. 17th-century Flemish oak panel of Prodigal Son receiving his Inheritance.
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2. 17th-century Flemish oak panel of the Leave Taking.
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3. 17th-century Flemish oak panel of Feasting with Harlots.
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4. 17th-century Flemish oak panel: Thrown out of the Inn by Harlots.
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5. 17th-century Flemish oak panel: Prodigal Son Tends Swine.
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6. Netherlandish oak panel c.1600.
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7. Engraving of the Prodigal Son Tending the Swine published 1562.

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Religious Subjects > Prodigal Son


This is a biblical parable designed to teach the virtues of repentance and forgiveness, illustrated by the actions and reactions of two brothers whose father divides his estate equally between them.  The younger leaves home to squander his share on loose living, while the elder continues to work diligently at home with his parents.  Having lost all his money, the younger son looks after a farmer's pigs until, sufficiently repentant, he returns home to his father, who welcomes him back by killing a fatted calf for a celebratory feast, much to the chagrin of the elder brother.  The father explains to his elder son that he should forgive his brother who was dead and has come back to life, was lost and is found.

The parable was a popular narrative cycle in art from the Middle Ages onwards.  Scenes often found include: the prodigal son receiving his inheritance; taking leave of his parents; feasting at the inn with harlots; chased away from the inn; tending swine; returning home.


1. The Prodigal Son Receives his Inheritance.

On this panel the father stands between his two sons, holding two equal moneybags; the younger son announces his desire to leave, his mother weeps.






2. The Prodigal Son Departs.

The younger son, dressed in his finery, grandly bids farewell to his parents, while his brother holds the horse steady.











3. Feasting at an Inn with Harlots.

Two women entertain the young man with their lute-playing, another seduces him, and a fourth offers him fruit as an additional enticement.











4. Chased away from the Inn.

Now he has spent all his money the harlots no longer want his company.  They chase him away and others empty their chamberpots on his head.










5. Tending the Swine.

No longer finely clothed and reluctant to face his father, the young man works for a rich, neighbouring farmer, caring for his pigs while he looks on.











6. Tending the Swine.


This panel is after an engraving by Philip Galle that was published by Hieronymus Cock in 1562.  There are a few differences but the figures and the pigs are notably similar.








7. Tending the Swine.

The engraving from which the above panel was carved.  Philip Galle engraved the designs drawn by Maarten van Heemkerck, whose name is at the bottom left of the print while Galle's name is in the centre