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Work Temperance Triumphing over Vice

Department of Prints and Drawings: 16th century

La Tempérance triomphant du Vice

Prints and Drawings
16th century

Mancini Federica

This drawing is a work of Veronese's maturity, one of a group of seven allegorical female figures, the surviving five of which are united by their theme and style and their chiaroscuro effects. Temperance, seen here, would have been the first, as suggested by the fluent treatment of the modeling and the forms, more vibrant and powerful than in the others.

Vices and virtues

In the center of the scene, a woman turned towards the left stands upon the fallen figure of a man. In her hands she holds a clock that she seems to consider attentively, heedless of the human carpet beneath her feet. On either side are two smoking urns: fire blazes from the one on the left, while a putto closes a lid upon the other. A second putto on the far left balances the composition. Like scenery in the wings, the branches of a tree on the upper left and a foreshortened monument on the right frame a broad empty expanse in the background. Attention falls on the central allegorical figure, particularly emphasized by the treatment of the drapery with white heightening and ink-wash, a technique favored by this artist throughout his career.

"Una femina belliss[im]a..."

On the reverse a long inscription in 16th- or 17th-century writing, much of it illegible, identifies the woman as Virtue and the supine "whey-faced" man as Vice. The lacunae in the text and the presence of the pendulum clock, symbol of temperance, have together given rise to numerous readings of this image, which is probably related to a series of allegorical figures. The figure of Virtue is very similar in silhouette to others executed by Veronese in the early 1580s, such as Charity (Libreria Marciana, Venice) or Eliezer and Rebecca (the Earl of Yarborough, Brocklesby Park), which allows it to be dated to the artist's late period.

A life of chiaroscuro

Veronese died at the age of sixty, having continued to work until the end. His tireless devotion to art led him to make a very great many drawings, where his chiaroscuro shows constant development. The Louvre drawing belongs to the last period: the application of ink and wash is fluent, not yet stylized, which suggests that this is the one of the first in the complex cycle of allegories.


R. Bacou, Dessins du Louvre, Ecole Italienne, Paris, 1968, n 64
W.R. Rearick, in Maestri Veneti del Cinquecento, Biblioteca di Disegni, Vol. VI, Istituto Alinari, Florence, pp. 45, 46, n 23
W.R. Rearick, Paolo Veronese, disegni e dipinti, cat.exp. Venise, Fondation Giorgio Cini, 1988, p.70, n 29
W.R. Rearick, Il Disegno Veneziano del Cinquecento, Milan, 2001, p.168

Technical description

  • Paolo Caliari, known as Veronese (Rome, 1528 - Venice, 1588)

    Temperance Triumphing over Vice

    1581-1582 (?)

  • Gray wash and brown ink over white heightening on gray-washed paper

    H. 36.2 cm; W. 27.4 cm

  • W. A. Lestevenon Collection; Marquis de Lagoy; Aimé Charles known as Horace His de La Salle ; gift, 1878

    RF 600

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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