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Three Virtues (Temperance, Hope, and Fortitude or Justice) and Studies of a Seated Man

Circle of Lorenzo Monaco (Piero di Giovanni) (Italian, Florence (?) ca. 1370–1425 Florence (?))

Circle of Lorenzo Monaco (Florentine, ca. 1420)
ca. 1420
Metalpoint, touches of brush and brown wash, heightened with white (partially oxidized in the figure at the lower left), on reddish violet prepared paper. Some lines retraced in pen and brown ink at a later date.
9 13/16 x 7 5/16 in. (24.9 x 18.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Although historically given to the preeminent early fifteenth century Florentine painter Lorenzo Monaco, and considered part of Giorgio Vasari's celebrated Libro de' disegni, this rare metalpoint drawing has recently been ascribed to an unknown artist in Lorenzo's circle. Vasari's writings on Lorenzo Monaco describe a chiaroscuro drawing of theological Virtues made "with such fine design in so beautiful and graceful a style that it may well be better than the drawings of any other master of those times." This is indeed a chiaroscuro drawing depicting three Virtues, and the Roman numerals written at the upper right (in the same ink used to retrace the drapery) suggest that perhaps as early as the sixteenth century this was one of a series of sheets, or a page in a collector's album. Yet the evidence is insufficient to give the drawing to Lorenzo Monaco. More recently, the drawing has been ascribed to contemporary early fourteenth-century Florentine artists such as the Master of the Judgment of Paris, Giovanni dal Ponte, and Gherardo Starnina (Master of the Bambino Vispo). Through white heightening, the artist carefully studied the dramatic play of light upon the rhythmic, cascading folds of drapery. The identification of the three Virtues as Temperance, Hope, and Fortitude (or Justice) has greater resonance, given the attributes and gestures of the seated women. There is no consensus on the identification of the seated old man, shown in three poses.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Annotated at the upper right, in the same ink used to retouch the drawing, in what may be a sixteenth-century hand: XXXIII

  • Provenance

    Possibly Giorgio Vasari, Florence; later provenance not established.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History