Andrea Andreani
Italian, ca. 1540-1623/26
after Jacopo Ligozzi (Italian, 1547-1627)

Allegory of Virtue or Virtue Unbound,1585
Chiaroscuro woodcut in black and two values of brown

Museum purchase

Chiaroscuro does give a sense of modeling through restricted color and tone and can thus give an image a dreamily monumental quality. This image has some of the enduringly enigmatic sensuality of the Bonasone print. Virtue is being held by bat winged Ignorance and blindfolded Error while Love hovers overhead and Opinion lies underfoot, holding the cloth that once bound Virtue. The vivid sensuous power of allegory and myth in the Renaissance perhaps transcends mere rhetoric, and it sometimes seems that their psychodrama - our psychodrama - is a drama of conflicting female powers, whatever twist male misogyny may put on that drama. The medieval feminist poet Christine de Pizan was visited by a vision of three ladies, Reason, Rectitude, and Justice, who insisted on their reality: "...Good providence leaves nothing void...we, though celestial below in order to bring order...according to the will of God." Christine's allegorical vision defends the honor of women against misogynist writers w ho promulgate blindfolded opinions at the expense of female virtue:"...from now on, ladies and all valiant women may have a refuge and defense..." It should be said that the meaning of Andreani's print does not refer to Christine; but may have something to do with an allegory of the vowels.

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