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(Italian, 15th century)
Dudley P. Allen Fund 1924.432.38
Catalogue raisonné: Hind E.I. 38
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 four cardinal virtues (Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice) and the three theological ones (Faith, Hope, and Charity). The latter are a Christian concept originating from a passage in the first Book of Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:13).
Here personified as a full-length female figure, Charita (Charity) simultaneously personifies the love of God (caritas Dei or amor Dei)—by parting her cloak with her left hand in order to reveal her flaming heart—and the love of one’s neighbor (caritas proximi)—by shaking coins from an open purse with her right hand. Charity looks downcast at her lower left and toward her symbol, a pelican. This bird was thought to open its breast with its beak to feed its young with its own blood.
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