Allegoria della Virtù e del Vizio (1505)

Lotto, Lorenzo (1480-1557)

Allegoria della Virtù e del Vizio (Allegory of Virtue and Vice)
Oil on panel, 56.5 x 42.2 cm
National Gallery of ArtWashington

Set on a strip of land under a cloud-filled sky and in front of a stormy sea, a nude, swarthy complected satyr with a man’s body and shaggy, goat’s legs reclines to our right as a nude, pale-skinned, blond child crouches over some objects on the dirt ground to our left in this vertical landscape painting. The satyr leans over and peers into a golden urn, which has a round bottom and tall, flaring sides about the height of his torso. One hand holds the single handle and the other wraps around the body of the urn. The tips of the satyr’s ears are elongated and pointed, and the corner of his mouth curves up into an exaggerated smile in his brown beard. Red liquid pours from an object, perhaps an overturned urn, near the satyr’s outstretched leg and white liquid pours from another urn between us and the satyr. Next to the satyr, at the center of the painting, a thick, upright tree trunk is broken off abruptly but one shoot grows tall with emerald-green leaves. A translucent, shield-shaped object decorated with an open-mouthed, human face hangs from a pink ribbon around the broken trunk near the branch. A second shield outlined in red with a rearing, white lion against a royal-blue field leans against the foot of the tree to our left. Nearby, the pale, naked child holds a pair of sticks, possibly a compass, and reaches for other objects on the ground near the shield, including a white disk, a pair of small, red-covered books, a square and possibly a plumb line, a flute, pan pipes, and a scroll of paper. The ground and landscape around each person are distinctly different. To our left, the dirt ground under the child is littered with small rocks. Beyond a row of larger boulders, a sweeping field of lemon-lime green sweeps up into a bank of clouds. A small nude person with dark forms, perhaps representing wings, on their shoulders, arms hips, and ankles ascends a path up toward the clouds. To our right, the satyr reclines on green grass in front of a screen of three lush trees. Beyond, across the entire landscape, a choppy sea extends into the far distance beneath the steel-gray clouds above. A masted ship is swallowed by waves behind the satyr, to our right. (NGA)