The Seven Deadly Sins

In 1904 James Ensor published an album with prints entitled Les sept péchés capitaux (The Seven Deadly Sins). The preface was written by Ensor's good friend Eugène Demolder, also the artist's first biographer. In addition to the depiction of every deadly sin this album contains a frontispiece, Death Rules the Deadly Sins, in which a winged skeleton is hovering over the seven deadly sins.

The series of prints was not created all at once. The etching Lust was the first one to be created in 1888. At that moment there was no indication whatsoever that Ensor also intended to depict the other deadly sins. It is said that following a suggestion of Eugène Demolder, Ensor completed the series over ten years later, between 1902 and 1904. There are preliminary studies for all of the etchings in coloured chalk (private collection); Ensor has also touched up the colours of the prints regularly.

In Les sept péchés capitaux Ensor covered the grotesque and at times funny iconography that he had developed since 1886-1889. Monstrous creatures, monsters, devils, skeletons, mops and carnival chaps hem in on the sinners. Emile Verhaeren loved the album; the prints are amongst the best of Ensor's late graphic work..