Returned to lender The Met accepts temporary loans of art both for short-term exhibitions and for long-term display in its galleries.

Allegory of Italy

Valentin de Boulogne French

Not on view

This allegory was painted for the papal nephew Cardinal Francesco Barberini. As in a tableau vivant, recognizable people have taken emblematic roles: a young woman has dressed as Italy (wearing a castellated crown, holding a shield, and standing on a cornucopia); two hairy-chested men play the parts of river gods (the Arno, with a lion, and the Tiber, with the twins Romulus and Remus and the she-wolf that suckled them). In this work, Valentin pushed the practice of painting from a posed model to its extreme, creating a unique masterpiece as radical as anything by Caravaggio. Indeed, even Gustave Courbet, two centuries later, did not surpass the realism of the models-cum-river gods. The painting occupied a place of honor in the cardinal’s residence and must have provoked fascinating conversations.

#318. Allegory of Italy

Allegory of Italy, Valentin de Boulogne (French, Coulommiers-en-Brie 1591–1632 Rome), Oil on canvas

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.