Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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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 elicited many explanations of its content, none of which have entirely resolved its meaning. An elderly man at left—possibly a philosopher—leans against a riverside rock, his hand outstretched to a crowned woman who strides toward him at right. In the most general terms, this scene is understood as an allegory with a hopeful message: the man who has poorly guided the boat of his own existence is saved by the woman representing reason. The print’s large size, numerous details, and intertwined elements contribute to a visual puzzle that requires great concentration to understand. This challenge 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, 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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