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    Sale 2134

    Old Master and 19th Century Drawings

    29 January 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 15


    An Allegory of Temperance, Justice and Liberality

    Price Realised  


    An Allegory of Temperance, Justice and Liberality
    inscribed 'Cechino Salviati Cerbo [?]' (verso)
    charcoal, black chalk, stumping, on two horizontally joined sheets of paper, framed
    21 3/8 x 15 7/8 in. (543 x 404 mm.)

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    This impressively large sheet is one of only a few drawings in charcoal by Stradanus. He made two paintings of this composition which display a complex iconographical program. One painting is in a private collection in Naples and is signed 'IOHA/STRADANES' and the other is now in the Seattle Museum of Art (fig. 1; Ekserdjian, p. 98). The drawing is closest in composition to the Seattle painting which is nearly the same size as the drawing (541 x 433 mm.). There are some variations to the iconography between the painting and the drawing which speaks to the complexity of the iconographical program that Stradanus was trying to develop for the composition.
    The main differences between the preparatory drawing and painting are in the symbols of the different allegories. These are especially evident with the figure of the Liberality at the right. She carries what looks like a sceptre and a crown which is replaced by a laurel wreath in the painted version. In the drawing her only other attribute is the pelican whereas in the painting there is also a bag of money and a sphinx with a female head and animal paws at her feet - probably a symbol of Fraud. In addition, her posture also differs with her weight resting on her right leg in the painting, and on her left leg in the drawing.
    Justice stands in the middle of both the drawing and painting with a sword and a pair of scales in her hands. A wolf near her left foot and an ermine near her right are respectively identifiable as Deceit and Innocence. There are some variations to the seated figure on the left, holding a sceptre and a bridle. Her head is covered by a feathered helmet in the painting, but not in the drawing, and the head of a bull in the drawn composition is translated into that of a lion in the Seattle panel. Moreover, the rabbit under her right foot in the painting is not visible in the drawing, leading Ekserdjian to suggest that the drawing might have been cropped. However, the presence of a barely sketched animal behind the globe under her foot, not easily recognizable in a photograph might have been the first idea for this rabbit.
    Each figure is placed above pairs of contrasting allegorical beasts. Justice is above Deceit and Innocence (wolf and ermine); Fortitude is above Courage and Timidity (lion and rabbit), and Liberality above Proligality and Avarice (pelican and sphinx). The motif of allegorical figures standing on or over their opposing symbols was developed in the early 1550s by the iconographer Cosimo Bartoli (1503-72) in a decorative scheme for the bishop of Cortona. Ekserdjian wonders whether he could have collaborated with Stradanus (op. cit., p. 99).
    This composition is close to another allegorical painting by Stradanus which is signed and dated 1572 (whereabouts unknown; A. Baroni Vanucci, Jan van der Straet detto Giovanni Stradano: flandrus pictor et inventor, Rome and Milan, 1997, p. 141, no. 36). The similarities in style and subject suggest that the Seattle painting and the present drawing can also be dated to this period.
    The complex iconographic program of the drawing, and the many changes that the artist brought to the final painted version, demonstrates the importance of this work to Stradanus who probably made it for a very erudite patron.


    With P. & D. Colnaghi, An exhibition of Old Master Drawings, London, 1998, no. 10.


    M.P.J. Martens, Bruges et la Renaissance, de Memling à Pourbus, Bruges, 1998, p. 161, no. 135.
    A. Baroni Vannucci, in P. Costamagna et al., Disegno, giudizio e bella maniera: studi sul disegno italiano in onore di Catherine Monbeig Goguel, Cinisello Balsamo, 2005, p. 85, no. 40.
    D. Ekserdjian, 'A rediscovered Allegory by Johannes Stradanus', The Burlington Magazine, CL, February 2008, p. 99, fig. 32.