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(Italian, 15th century)
Dudley P. Allen Fund 1924.432.37
Catalogue raisonné: Hind E.I. 37a
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, Iusticia (Justice) is personified as a full-length female figure holding up a sword and a scale in her right and left hand, respectively. These two attributes allude to the determination of right and wrong, and to her power to punish. Justice is always vigilant as her symbol, the crane. Medieval texts narrate that crane sentinels are given stones to hold in their claws in order to verify their careful night watch for danger. If they fall asleep, they drop the stone, and ultimately reveal their neglect of duty. In this engraving, a crane takes place next to Justice, and keeps a firm clasp on a rock.
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