Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Allegory of Life

Giorgio Ghisi (Italian, Mantua ca. 1520–1582 Mantua)
After Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio or Santi) (Italian, Urbino 1483–1520 Rome)
Engraving; second state of six (BLL)
Sheet (Trimmed): 14 3/4 × 21 3/16 in. (37.5 × 53.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1953
Accession Number:
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: Inscribed in image below tree at center: "SEDET AETERNUM QUE SEDEBIT I[N]FOELIX"; on a tablet in the boat at center: "GEORGIUS GHISI MA[N]T .F."; on a tablet lower left: "RAPHAELIS URBINATIS INVENTUM. PHILIPPUS DATUS ANIMI GRATIA FIERI IUSSIT"; 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 114.28.iia; Bellini 1998 180.41.iia; Bartsch XV.412.67; TIB 31[15], 142.67.ii
Adam von Bartsch Le Peintre graveur. Vienna, 1803, cat. no. 67, p. 412.

TIB The Illustrated Bartsch - Commentary Volumes. 1978–, cat. no. 67.ii, p. 142, ill.

Suzanne Boorsch, R. E. Lewis, Michal Lewis The Engravings of Giorgio Ghisi. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985, cat. no. 28.iia, p. 114, ill.

Paolo Bellini L'opera incisa di Giorgio Ghisi. Bassano del Grappa, 1998, cat. no. 41.iia, p. 180, ill.

Related Objects

Emblem of Lucrezia Gonzaga

Artist: Giorgio Ghisi (Italian, Mantua ca. 1520–1582 Mantua) Date: before 1566 Medium: Engraving Accession: 1998.243 On view in:Not on view

Gli Archi Fatti per la Entrata. . .Henrico III nella Città di Mantova

Artist: Illustrations attributed to Giorgio Ghisi (Italian, Mantua ca. 1520–1582 Mantua) Date: 1574 Medium: Engravings Accession: 53.538.8 On view in:Not on view

Christ crucified surrounded by mourning angels

Artist: Giorgio Ghisi (Italian, Mantua ca. 1520–1582 Mantua) Date: 1575–79 Medium: Engraving Accession: 59.642.30 On view in:Not on view

The Trinity

Artist: Giorgio Ghisi (Italian, Mantua ca. 1520–1582 Mantua) Date: 1576 Medium: Engraving Accession: 51.639.23 On view in:Not on view