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(Italian, 15th century)
Engraving, hand-colored with gold
Dudley P. Allen Fund 1924.432.35
Catalogue raisonné: Hind E.I. 35a
This engraving is part of the group marked with the letter “B,” and named Cosmic Principles and the Virtues, which comprises the three Universal principles (Light, Time, and Space) alongside the three theological virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity) and the four cardinal ones (Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice). The latter were regarded as the basic Christian principles required for a virtuous life.
Here, Prudence is personified as a full-length female figure with a bearded visage of an old man placed on the back of a graceful woman’s head. These two profiles represent the ability to see the past and to observe the present and future, respectively. Prudence looks at her reflection in a mirror, which is supported by a cupid figure standing on a pedestal. The mirror refers to Prudence’s gift of self-knowledge. Next to her on the lower right is a dragon believed to be a wise creature and a representative of the world of serpents.
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