“Allegory:” I believe this is a code word artists use for their work when they got drunk one night and painted the first thing that came into their heads/sculpted something horrific/trashed some furniture and had to explain it to their roommate.
This pair of paintings by Italian artist Lorenzo Lotto does little to persuade me otherwise.
First: The Allegory of Virtue and Vice.
So, if you live a life of vice, you might die in a shipwreck, but you will have had so much wine that you will not care. You get a lush field of grass to recline in, fresh grapes, and when you have to vomit, you get a bucket made of solid gold.
If you live a life of virtue, you will crawl around in a barren wasteland of dirt and rocks naked, striving to do something useful with your meagre means.
Ultimately a colony of bats will seize you and dump you into what appears to be an erupting volcano.
The Allegory of Chastity is even simpler.
On close inspection, I assume he’s supposed to be scattering flowers over her pure form. But my first impression at a glance was: Living a chaste life is like getting pissed on by a smug cherub.
Not sure this is supposed to be the take-away message. Moral lessons were never my strong point.
All images are from the National Gallery of Art.