Hidden treasures

Giotto’s Vices and Virtues in the Scrovegni Chapel

Historical Curiosities

Giotto’s Vices and Virtues in the Scrovegni Chapel

The Scrovegni Chapel in Padua contains one of the most significant masterpieces of all time: the great fresco cycle by Giotto.

Among the innumerable pictures, the allegories of the Vices and Virtues, embedded in a fake plinth with mirror-like marble slabs on the lower part of the two side walls, are certainly very interesting! Giotto placed them in such a way that they appear in relation to each other and to the Last Judgment painted on the counter-façade according to a path that leads to two very specific destinies, Hell or Heaven.

Giotto thought of the arrangement of the figures by conceiving a sort of path to salvation, in which vices can be cured by virtue.

The figure placed at the beginning of this ‘path’ is Foolishness, represented by a woman dressed as a jester, young and foolish, unable to distinguish good and evil. What virtue is opposed to Foolishness? Clearly, Prudence, which Giotto depicts as a mature, intellectual woman, sitting behind a chair.

Beside Foolishness, in precarious balance, there emerges Uncertainty, sliding along a slope ... The only way to find the broken equilibrium is a good dose of Fortitude, which the great artist imagines as a warrior standing upright and her feet firmly planted on the ground.

Next, we see a woman trying to tear off her clothes, Wrath, in contraposition to Temperance, calm and smiling, capable of dominating instincts.

Injustice and Justice, represented respectively by a man seated on a ruined throne who badly governs his people and by a woman sitting on an elegant throne weighing the righteous and the unjust with a balance, are depicted in larger size.

Following the path, we then find Infidelity, blind and pushed towards the flames by a female idol; its opposite, Faith, shows a composed attitude and holds in its hands the Word of God and a cross, symbol of Christianity.

A little further on is Envy, which Giotto paints like an old woman, who burns in the flames while inaudible words in the form of a snake come out of her mouth: the animal then turns back against her by biting her nose. The old woman is contrasted by a luxuriant young woman, Charity holding a cornucopia and a filled basket, symbols of abundance.

The path ends with Desperation, dead by hanging, who can only be relieved by Hope, a graceful woman who flies upwards to grab her prize, a shining crown.

Come and discover the pictures of these magnificent allegorical figures and the other extraordinary Giotto’s frescoes with a fascinating evening guided tour of the Scrovegni Chapel ... The evening is the best time to admire these masterpieces in their natural beauty!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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