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Andrea del Sarto (Andrea d'Agnolo) Italian

Not on view

The three theological virtues are Faith, Hope, and Charity—the last of which is called Love by Saint Paul. Charity is most often represented as a woman with three infants, one often at her breast. The burning fire in the background is a time-honored metaphor for the love of God.

Sarto used a panel on which he had begun a Holy Family and changed the imagery to Charity, probably at the time he decided the painting would be sent to Francis I as part of the collection being amassed by Battista della Palla. The artist might have been thinking back to his experience working at the French court in 1518—a major accomplishment of that somewhat ill-fated sojourn was a Charity that remained in the royal collections (Musée du Louvre, Paris).

Technical examination shows that Charity may have been developed in the studio at the same time as the Borgherini Holy Family. It seems a variation in another key, with a different choice of colors and the invention of two new central figures—the twisting smallest child and the smiling boy at center who looks out at the viewer.

Charity, Andrea del Sarto (Andrea d'Agnolo) (Italian, Florence 1486–1530 Florence), Oil on wood

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