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An allegory of Life

Artist:
Giorgio Ghisi (Italian, Mantua ca. 1520–1582 Mantua)
Date:
1561
Medium:
Engraving
Dimensions:
sheet: 14 3/4 x 21 3/16 in. (37.5 x 53.8 cm) borderline
Classification:
Prints
Credit Line:
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1953
Accession Number:
53.600.594
Not on view
This compelling and enigmatic image has provoked many explanations of its content, none of which have entirely resolved its meaning. An elderly man at left – possibly a philosopher – leans on rock, his hand outstretched towards a crowned woman who strides toward him at right. In the most general terms, this print is understood as an allegory with a hopeful message, where the man who has badly guided the boat of his own existence is saved by the woman representing reason. The print’s large size, many details and intertwined elements form an image that requires great concentration to appreciate. This is part of the challenge and would have appealed to an educated audience in the sixteenth century.
Inscription: Lettered within image, below the tree at centre: 'SEDET AETERNUM QUE SEDEBIT I[N]FOELIX'
Signed in a tablet in the boat: 'GEORGIUS GHISI MA[N]T .F. 1.5.6.1.'
In a tablet, lower left: 'RAPHAELIS URBINATIS INVENTUM. PHILIPPUS DATUS ANIMI GRATIA FIERI IUSSIT'
In a tablet, lower right: 'TU NE CEDE MALIS: SED CO[N]TRA AUDENTIOR ITO'
Princes of Liechtenstein; Vendor: P. & D. Colnaghi & Co.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," May 6, 1996–July 28, 1996.

Boorsch, Lewis and Lewis p.114 n.28.iia; Bellini 1998 p.180 n.41.iia; B.XV.412.67
Adam von Bartsch Le Peintre graveur. Vienna, 1803.

Suzanne Boorsch, R. E. Lewis Inc., Michal Lewis The Engravings of Giorgio Ghisi. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985.

Paolo Bellini L'opera incisa di Giorgio Ghisi. Bassano del Grappa, 1998.



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