Allegory of Life

(Italian, 1520–1582)
Support: Cream(3) laid paper, mounted to laid paper, with an approximately 2.5 cm. wide strip of laid paper applied to each of the four edges (over edges of primary support)
Image: 38.1 x 54.4 cm (15 x 21 7/16 in.); Secondary Support: 43.1 x 59.4 cm (16 15/16 x 23 3/8 in.)
Catalogue raisonné: Lewis&Boorsch 28 iia/vi
State: iia/vi
Location: not on view
You can copy, modify, and distribute this work, all without asking permission. Learn more about CMA's Open Access Initiative.

Download, Print and Share

Did You Know?

Ghisi was trained in the creation of luxury metalwork, specifically armor, informing his highly skilled and complex engraving of the copperplate used to make this print.


This engraving presents a complex allegory whose complete meaning remains unclear, although the plaques at the feet of the man and woman may provide one clue. The inscriptions come from the sixth book of Virgil’s Aeneid: "He who sits unfortunate will sit forever," and "Do not yield to adversities, but go out to meet them bravely." The print’s details do not correspond directly to any episode from Virgil, although book six, in which Aeneas descends into the underworld, is an allegory of human life. A similar theme could be suggested here, communicating an essentially hopeful message of overcoming tribulation.
Allegory of Life

Allegory of Life


Giorgio Ghisi

(Italian, 1520–1582)
Italy, 16th century

Visually Similar Artworks

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.