Van Lerius studied in Brussels and later taught at the Academy in Antwerp. Among the Belgian Romanticists he was known as 'the painter of women' whom he painted with a classical precision, whether they were historical personages, mythical or fictional beings or portraits of the glamorous ladies of society. It was rumored that he had a notoriously tumultuous love life, and that his suicide was over one of his models.
Virtue Triumphant was reviewed in the Gazette des Beaux Arts with great enthusiasm:
'The Triumph of Virtue' is the subject of a painting by van Lerius, in which his presents himself as a thorough draughtsman as well as a highly qualified colorist. Given the title, one might expect a complicated allegory in the German vein, using the heavens as a stage, angels and demons as actors and stand-ins. However, the scene takes place in a miserable garret. A young girl, barely covered with a poor, half-torn shift, has just stabbed a young rake, dressed in a splendid gala suit, who is still holding her around the waist, while an old woman, unmoved and detached from the on-going drama, secretly counts the money gained from her mean bargain. The head of the young girl is superb in its indignation and terror, her wild-looking eye, her quivering nostrils, her tense mouth, her panting throat, speak splendidly of the revolt of her decency, mixed with the horror of her just vengeance. The glare of the seducer's white body stands out against the shimmering crimson and golden fabric of his costume: the carefully rendered and well-defined figure of the old woman makes one almost forget how despicable her business is. Van Lerius complements his temperament as a colorist with a profound knowledge of drawing, the School of Antwerp can be proud of this artist; why is he so modest and does not exhibit elsewhere? There can be no doubt that he would be very well received in Paris.' (J. J. Guiffret, 'Exposition des Beaux-Arts é Anvers', Gazette des Beaux-Arts,
vol. 17, October, 1864, p. 370).
This painting was exhibited one year later, in 1865, in Paris and Amsterdam, where the artist was awarded a gold medal and elected an honorary member of the Academy. Van Lerius' work was particularly admired in England, and an example was added to the Queen's collection at Windsor.