Cardinal and Theological Virtues (Raphael)

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Virtù Cardinali e Teologali
Virtù e due scene 02.jpg
Artist Raphael
Year 1511
Type fresco
Dimensions 6.6 m (22 ft) wide
Location Vatican Museums, Vatican City

The Cardinal and Theological Virtues is a fresco by Raphael as part of his Stanza della Segnatura in the Palazzi Vaticani in Vatican City. It is 6.6m wide at the base. The cardinal virtues are personified as three women in a bucolic landscape, and the theological virtues by cupids:

  • Fortitude, a woman holding an oak branch, with the branch shaken by the cupid Charity
  • Prudence, with two faces, looking in a mirror, with a cupid Hope behind her holding a flaming torch
  • Temperance, holding reins in her hand, guarding a cupid Faith, who points at the sky with his right hand

Another interpretation might see Prudence as holding the reins and Temperance with two faces. Prudence is traditionally called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure and Temperance moderates the attraction of the pleasures of the senses and provides balance in the use of created goods. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1806, and 1838).


It was painted in 1511 as the fourth part, after the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament, The School of Athens and The Parnassus, of Raphael's commission to decorate with frescoes the rooms that are now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. It is located in the Stanza della segnatura and allegorically presents fortitude, prudence and temperance.

Prudence holds up a mirror because she sees the truth clearly. Fortitude's attribute is the lion which she has in her lap and Temperance has a putto in reins, she is tempering him. The fourth virtue, Justice, is depicted in the tondo on the ceiling. Fortitude holds a Della Rovere oak tree and her legs and drapery are derived almost directly from those of Michelangelo’s “Moses”. Prudence has two faces one young looking into a mirror and the other old and bearded looking back. The long loops of Temperance’s bridle continue the curves of the composition. These large reclining figures in bulky fabric aren’t much unlike the great sibyls of the Sistine chapel ceiling.