Art/ Collection/ Art Object
{{img.publicCaption}}

Allegory of Avarice

Artist:
Jacopo Ligozzi (Italian, Verona 1547–1627 Florence)
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
54 7/8 x 33 1/4 in. (139.4 x 84.5 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Gift of Eric Seiler and Darcy Bradbury, and Edward A. and Karen S. W. Friedman, 1991
Accession Number:
1991.443
Not on view
In 1590 Ligozzi created a series of elaborate, allegorical drawings of the Seven Deadly Sins (six still exist). This painting, which is a fragment, depicts the central figures of the allegory of Avarice, the drawing for which is in the National Gallery, Washington. As described in emblem books, Avarice is shown as a pale woman holding a bag of money. The threatening skeleton suggests that the artist was inspired as well by other representations of the vice in either literature (perhaps Dante) or the visual arts.
Jacopol Ligozzi is among the most fascinating artists at the court of Grand Duke Francesco de’ Medici in Florence, where he arrived from his native Verona in 1575. It was there that, two years later, Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522–1605)—sometimes considered the father of natural history—visited him and admired his paintings of plants and animals. It was, indeed, as one of the earliest and most accomplished masters of botanical illustration and paintings of birds and fish that Ligozzi established his reputation. As court artist he was not permitted to take on independent commissions, and when he did so in 1583, he lost his position. It is at this point in his career that he shifted to the production of altarpieces and allegorical compositions. The Metropolitan’s painting is a fine example of the latter. A related, highly finished compositional drawing is in the National Gallery of Art, Washington (1984.56.1; see Additional Images, fig. 1). Dated 1590, it belongs to a series illustrating the Seven Cardinal (or Deadly) Sins, of which six survive (see Lorini 2014): Sloth and Lust (Cabinet des Dessins, Musée du Louvre, Paris), Pride and Envy (Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum, Hanover), Gluttony (location unknown), and Avarice (Washington).The MMA picture is the only painting related to the series and it is unclear whether a full set ever existed. The Washington drawing establishes that the MMA picture is a fragment of a much more complex composition that showed, on the left, an old man seated at a table writing in his account book, with sacks of coins and other objects on the floor. Two skeletons observe him while, overhead, is a flying demon. The hands of one of the skeletons and the leg of the demon are visible in the MMA fragment, which comprises a bit more than the lower right quadrant of the composition. The passive woman is shown with her head resting on her arm, propped on the table. In her left hand she holds a sack of coins, while a winged figure of Death raises one hand and with the other offers another sack. She and the old man have been associated with Dante’s lineup of sinners in the Purgatorio (canto XX): Sapphira and Ananias, who dropped dead when Saint Peter accused them of having lied and kept back part of their wealth that should have gone to the community of Christians (Acts 5:1–11). However, the background scene, which seems to show the same woman assaulted by an armed male figure, is unrelated to Dante’s story and Feinberg (1991) has suggested, instead, that the allusion is to the more traditional theme of Death and the Miser.

[Keith Christiansen 2014]
[Stair Sainty Matthiesen, London and New York, until 1985; sold to Seiler, Bradbury, and Friedman]; Eric Seiler and Darcy Bradbury, and Edward A. and Karen S. W. Friedman, New York (1985–91)
London. Matthiesen Fine Art Ltd. "Around 1610: The Onset of the Baroque," June 14–August 16, 1985, no. 5 (as "Allegory of Avarice: Sapphira," by Jacopo Ligozzi).

Florence. Palazzo Pitti. "Jacopo Ligozzi: 'pittore universalissimo'," May 27–September 28, 2014, no. 70.

Jaynie Anderson in Around 1610: The Onset of the Baroque. Exh. cat., Matthiesen Fine Art Ltd. London, 1985, pp. 27–29, no. 5, ill. (color), publishes the painting and relates it to the drawing dated 1590 then in a private collection and now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington; suggests that the painting may have been cut at the left and that the biblical narrative of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts IV, 34–37) is represented as an allegory of Avarice.

Maria Rodighiero in La pittura in Italia: il Seicento. Ed. Mina Gregori and Erich Schleier. revised and expanded ed. Milan, 1989, vol. 2, p. 787, believes this work attests that Ligozzi translated his drawings of the Seven Deadly Sins (1590) into paint.

Larry J. Feinberg. From Studio to Studiolo: Florentine Draftmanship under the First Medici Grand Dukes. Exh. cat., Allen Memorial Art Museum. Oberlin, Ohio, 1991, p. 109, notes that the painting appeared in 1985; suggests that the subject of the related drawing is not Sapphira but instead conforms to the theme of Death and the Miser as portrayed in Northern European Ars Moriendi.

Lucilla Conigliello. Jacopo Ligozzi: Le vedute del Sacro Monte della Verna, i dipinti di Poppi e Bibbiena. Exh. cat., Castello dei Conti Guidi. Poppi, 1992, pp. 28, 43 n. 105, fig. 18, as location unknown, dates the painting around 1590; states that the drawing of the same subject should be seen as related to but not preparatory to the painting; compares it with a painting of the Redemption in Locko Park; rejects the suggestion that the story of Ananias and Sapphira is represented.

Lucilla Conigliello in Jacopo Ligozzi: "pittore universalissimo". Ed. Alessandro Cecchi et al. Exh. cat., Palazzo Pitti, Florence. Livorno, 2014, pp. 14, 202–3, no. 70, ill. (color).

Victoria Lorini in Jacopo Ligozzi: "pittore universalissimo". Ed. Alessandro Cecchi et al. Exh. cat., Palazzo Pitti, Florence. Livorno, 2014, p. 204.



Related Objects

The Beech Tree of the Madonna at La Verna

Artist: Jacopo Ligozzi (Italian, Verona 1547–1627 Florence) Date: 1605–7 Medium: Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash and with traces of gray wash, over black chalk Accession: 1983.131.1 On view in:Not on view

The Descent from the Cross with Saint Francis and Another Friar

Artist: Jacopo Ligozzi (Italian, Verona 1547–1627 Florence) Date: 1619 Medium: Pen and brown ink, brush and brown and gray wash, highlighted with gold. Drawing edges in brown ink and gold Accession: 65.112.3 On view in:Not on view

A Janissary "of War" with a Lion

Artist: Jacopo Ligozzi (Italian, Verona 1547–1627 Florence) Date: ca. 1577–80 Medium: Watercolor, gouache, gold paint, gum arabic, and burnishing Accession: 1997.21 On view in:Not on view

Dead Christ Lamented by an Angel

Artist: Jacopo Ligozzi (Italian, Verona 1547–1627 Florence) Date: ca. 1614 Medium: Engraving; second state of three Accession: 61.658.11 On view in:Not on view

Botanical Specimen (Motherwort or "Leonurus cardiaca")

Artist: Jacopo Ligozzi (Italian, Verona 1547–1627 Florence) Date: 1577–91 Medium: Brush with watercolor and gouache on vellum Accession: 2004.435 On view in:Not on view