Hidden treasures

Giotto’s Vices and Virtues in the Scrovegni Chapel

Historical Curiosities
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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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