Friday, January 17, 2014

The Seven Virtues?

Lot 377 Oak Interiors Bonhams January 2014
This item was interesting to me as soon as I saw it.  There were five individual alagories in this scene but it seems some of them are doing double duty.  Note that Faith with the bible is also holding a snake in the way that Prudence always does in the upper right corner.  In the upper left, we have Fortitude with the broken column. On the lower right, a woman is pouring from one jug to another representing Temperance.  That gets us to four virtues with two women left.

Where are Justice, Hope and Charity in this scene?  We have an angel in the middle with a horn in one hand blowing out a horn in the other.  And a woman with a bird on her hand holding palm leaves.  The palm leaves on women in 17th century embroidery often signify Victory or Peace.  Could this be a substitute for hope with the bird on her hand (usually bent pecking the hand if for Touch) represent charity?  I could see the angel calling for Justice in the way that justice for the soul on the last day.

This piece is still a bit of a conundrum.  Maybe there is a scholar of allegories out there that would like to weigh in.


  1. and dont forget the leopard and the lion~ what ever it is, I like it. I looked thru all the pieces the other day, and this was by far my favorite...second piece being lot 387, in particular the shading of the blues~ FABULOUS!

  2. Really interesting find, Trish - and one which points to a statement of religious protest in an culture of repression. I've seen a book binding on a religious text which conspicuously leaves out charity but includes faith, hope, and the Catholic symbol of a Pyx. Faith holding the snake seems to point in the same direction and holds, as was typical of the time, bivalency, allowing it to be interpreted in several possible ways - one way if you're 'in the know' and another way if you want to protect your thoughts from prying hostile minds. This need for self-expression, yet safety in these conditions can be found in other societies and situations - look up 'ketman', for example.