Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Allegorical Double-Bill: The Agony, the Ecstasy, and Divine Hazing

“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.
Allegory of Virtue and Vice – Lorenzo Lotto, 1505

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.
Allegory of Chastity – Lorenzo Lotto, c. 1505

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.


  1. The chaste maiden is being watched by a pole dancer with hairy legs. I think the pole dancer has a girl crush, so maybe the cherub piss is making her keep her distance.

    1. I imagine cherub piss would be a fairly effective admirer repellent. Although it might attract a whole different variety of creeper....

  2. Great. Now I have Billy Joel singing "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints... the sinners are much more fun... darlin' only the good die young!" looping in my head!

    1. It's true! I mean, that paragon of virtue being sacrificed to the volcano can't be more than age six.

  3. I thought the angel was peeing, too. What I couldn't figure out is if the puking dude had his tail or his private parts between his legs.