Each figure is accompanied by an attribute: at the feet of Faith a dog, a common symbol of fidelity; at the feet of Charity a pelican symbolic of Christ's sacrifice; and at the feet of Hope a phoenix, symbolizing Christ's Resurrection. The series of allegorical figures, viewed against a continuous landscape, was probably intended to decorate the back of a spalliere (a high-backed bench or day-bed) or to be set into a wainscoting.
Inscription: Inscribed (on host held by Faith): INRI
Charles A. Loeser, Florence (by 1904–d. 1928); his widow, Olga Lebert Loeser, Florence (1928–d. 1947); their daughter, Matilda Loeser Calnan, Florence and Los Angeles (1947–74; gave to Los Angeles County Museum of Art); Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1974–82; their sale, Sotheby's, Los Angeles, June 21, 1982, no. 6, as by Pietro di Domenico, to MMA)
Siena. Palazzo della Repubblica. "Antica arte senese," April–August 1904, no. 73 (as "Le Tre Virtù Teologali," by Matteo Balducci, lent by Charles Loeser, Florence).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Painting in Renaissance Siena: 1420–1500," December 20, 1988–March 19, 1989, nos. 75a–c (as by the Master of the Griselda Legend and Pietro di Domenico).
Corrado Ricci. Il Palazzo Pubblico di Siena e la mostra d'antica arte senese. Bergamo, 1904, p. 71, attributes the three pictures to Matteo Balducci; as in the collection of [Charles A.] Loeser.
F. Mason-Perkins. "La pittura alla mostra d'arte antica in Siena." Rassegna d'arte 4 (October 1904), p. 153 [similar text as Burlington Magazine, September 1904], questions the attribution to Matteo Balducci, suggesting that although they retain some Umbrian characteristics they may have been painted by an artist born in Siena.
F. Mason Perkins. "The Sienese Exhibition of Ancient Art." Burlington Magazine 5 (September 1904), p. 583 [similar text as Rassegna d'arte, October 1904], questions the attribution to Balducci.
André Pératé. "Les expositions d'art siennois à Sienne & à Londres." Les arts no. 34 (October 1904), p. 14, attributes them to Matteo Balducci.
Emil Jacobsen. Sodoma und das Cinquecento in Siena. Strasbourg, 1910, p. 95, rejects the attribution to Balducci, although finding that the pictures do recall his work.
Luisa Vertova. "Cicli senesi di virtù: inediti di Andrea di Niccolò e del Maestro di Griselda." Scritti di storia dell'arte in onore di Federico Zeri. Vol. 1, Milan, 1984, pp. 209, 212, ill. pp. 206 (Faith), 207 (Charity, Hope), as formerly in the Loeser collection; attributes them to the Griselda Master, noting Berenson's attribution to this same artist recorded on the back of a photograph of Charity (Villa I Tatti, Florence); dates them after the cycle of eight panels of heroes and heroines of antiquity on which several artists collaborated, including the Griselda Master; raises the possibility that the series may originally have included seven virtues.
Federico Zeri. Letter to Keith Christiansen. November 3, 1984, calls Vertova's [see Ref. 1984] attribution to the Griselda Master "plausible, though not entirely convincing" and identifies another work by the same artist as a Saint Catherine of Siena in a landscape formerly in the Seymour-Maynard collection, London; considers all three MMA panels to be by the same hand and does not think the artist is Pietro di Domenico.
Laurence B. Kanter inPainting in Renaissance Siena: 1420–1500. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1988, pp. 344, 346–51, nos. 75a–c, ill. (Faith in color, Charity and Hope in black and white), attributes both the design and the execution of Faith to the Master of the Griselda Legend, the design and the execution of Charity to Pietro di Domenico, and the design of Hope to the Griselda Master and its execution to Pietro di Domenico; suggests that Pietro di Domenico may have taken over a commission abandoned by the Griselda Master and calls Faith the latest of the known works by this artist; proposes a date for the series of the second half of the 1490s; states that it is not known whether the three panels were made for a secular or sacred setting, but that they must have been either set into the wainscoting of a room or into part of a piece of furniture; discusses the drawing on the back of Charity [see Notes], attributing it to Signorelli; suggests that the composition of Charity was based on that of Rhea Silvia on Jacopo della Quercia's Fonte Gaia (formerly Piazza del Campo, now Palazzo Pubblico, Siena).
Creighton Gilbert. Letter to Everett Fahy. May 6, 1988, rejects the attribution to the Griselda Master, finding an attribution to Pietro di Domenico plausible; believes all three panels were painted by the same artist.
Wolfger A. Bulst. "'STINSI TERENAS / [ACCENDO] CELESTES': Ein Tafelbild Sodomas in der Sammlung Chigi Saracini und die Ikonographie der Pietas im 16. Jahrhundert." Kunst des Cinquecento in der Toskana. Ed. Monika Cämmerer. Munich, 1992, pp. 71, 82 nn. 106–7, fig. 18, believes that Sodoma must have been aware of Charity when he painted his version of the subject (formerly in the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, Berlin; destroyed in World War II); mentions the influence of della Quercia's Fonte Gaia on both works [see Ref. Kanter 1988].
Laurence B. Kanter. "Rethinking the Griselda Master." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 135 (February 2000), pp. 153–56 nn. 22, 25, 26, figs. 5 (Faith), 8 (Hope), 9 (Charity), attributes Faith to the Griselda Master and Hope and Charity to an artist he names the Master of the Chigi Moses, revising his earlier opinion [see Ref. 1988] on the authorship of the latter two pictures; also attributes to the Master of the Chigi Moses a Saint Catherine of Siena (formerly Logan Pearsall-Smith and Seymour Maynard collections) [see Ref. Zeri 1984] and the eponymous Trial of the Infant Moses, a birth tray in the Chigi-Saracini collection, Siena; suggests identifying this artist as Mariotto di Andrea, or at least as a Volterran rather than a Sienese painter.
Alessandro Angelini. "Per la cronologia del dittico dei Montefeltro di Piero della Francesca." Prospettiva no. 141–42 (January–April 2011), p. 71 n. 17, attributes them to Mariotto d'Andrea da Volterra (the brother of Pietro d'Andrea da Volterra, whom he identifies with the Griselda Master) and dates them shortly after 1500.
The three panels were always meant to form a group. The background of the paintings forms a continuous landscape, and on the backs of the panels are traces of the two battens which originally bound them together. Judging from the landscape forms, there must have been approximately four inches between the panels. They may have been set into the back of a "spalliere" (a high-backed bench or day bed) or into the wainscoting of a room.
Each of three three panels includes an attribute: a dog, symbolizing fidelity, at the feet of Faith; a pelican, symbolizing Christ's sacrifice, behind Charity; and a phoenix, symbolizing Christ's resurrection, with Hope.
The composition of Charity derives in several respects from that of Rhea Sylvia with her sons, Romulus and Remus, from the Fonte Gaia of 1414–19 by Jacopo della Quercia (formerly Piazza del Campo; now Palazzo Pubblico, Siena).
On the back of the panel depicting Charity are some drawings in black crayon of nudes. The drawings are partly visible to the naked eye and very clear with infrared reflectography. One of these shows a male nude with his left hand raised and his head in strong foreshortening. Loosely drawn and of notably high quality, it recalls the pose of a small figure in the window embrasure of the sacristy at Loreto by Signorelli [see Pietro Scarpellini, Luca Signorelli, Milan, 1964, fig. 16].