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(Italian, 15th century)
Dudley P. Allen Fund 1924.432.21
Catalogue raisonné: Hind E.I. 21a
This engraving is part of the group “C” named Liberal Arts. Conceptually, the liberal arts descended from classical antiquity, and were divided into the Trivium (Grammar, Rhetoric, and Dialectic or Logic) and the Quadrivium (Music, Geometry, Arithmetic, and Astronomy). In the Tarocchi set the total number was risen to ten, with the addition of the three disciplines (Poetry, Philosophy, and Theology). The liberal arts denoted knowledge or skills considered necessary to participate in a free society. By the late Middle Ages, they began to be represented in the visual arts as womanlike allegories.
Here, Grammatica (Grammar) is personified as a full-length female figure turned to left. Her left hand carries a vessel containing medicine to correct children’s pronunciation, while her right hand holds up a file, meant to remove grammatical mistakes from their tongues. Regarded as the foundation of the Liberal Arts, Grammar teaches how to speak with grace and perfection.
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