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

Latest posts

Padua: Bartolomeo Cristofori: the Padua-born man who invented the piano

Did you know that...

Did you know that the inventor of the piano hailed from Padua? That’s true and his name was Bartolomeo Cristofori. Bartolomeo Cristof...


Venice: The gondolier: the warrior of the lagoon

Mysteries & Legends

Everybody knows who a gondolier is and what he does: he is the person who, with dedication and ability, propels the gondola, the tradit...


Venice: Why is it called Titian Red?

Figures of speech

Do you recall the sensual ‘Venus of Urbino’ or the elegant ‘Woman in the mirror’ by Tiziano Vecellio? Now, just focus on the re...


Cortina D'ampezzo: A Museum in the Clouds in Cortina d’Ampezzo

Mysteries & Legends

If you reach the summit of Mount Rite at 2181 meters near Cortina d'Ampezzo, it will come as a surprise to find among the barren dolomi...


Top posts

Venice: How much does a gondola ride cost?

Did you know that...

Have you decided to visit Venice and included a nice gondola ride on the list of things to do? How could we blame you! Is there anythin...


Venice: The stone heart of St Mark’s Basilica

Unknown places & works

If you are visiting St Mark’s Basilica and have just abandoned the wonderful vision of the Pala d'Oro (which is a must-see), just a f...


Treviso: The ghost of Bianca di Collalto

Mysteries & Legends

On the night between October 31 and November 1, telling a scary ghost story is a must... We have one related to the castle of Collalto,...


Padua: Prato della Valle in Padua

Historical Curiosities

Probably only the inhabitants of Padua and a few other people know of a particular record their city is boasting about: having the larg...