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Gherardo di Giovanni del Fora, The Combat of Love and Chastity

Key facts
Full title The Combat of Love and Chastity
Artist Gherardo di Giovanni del Fora
Artist dates 1444/5 - 1497
Date made probably 1475-1500
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 42.5 × 34.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1885
Inventory number NG1196
Location Gallery C
Collection Main Collection
The Combat of Love and Chastity
Gherardo di Giovanni del Fora

This balletic battle scene shows Chastity, the graceful woman in a billowing dress, defending herself against the golden arrows of Love, the athletic naked youth. The combat takes place on a summer day, and the only sign of commotion in nature is a swan, wings outstretched, in pursuit of its companion.

The battle of Love and Chastity was hugely important in Renaissance society, representing the suppression of illicit passion in favour of chaste and faithful devotion in marriage, particularly on the part of women. The theme came from a famous poem by the fourteenth-century Italian poet, Petrarch. Our panel was part of a larger series of paintings probably made to decorate the rooms of a newly wed couple.

Gherardo worked more often as a miniaturist and this is reflected in his attention to the smallest details. Chastity’s shield is beautifully embellished with gold and jewels, and a variety of wild flowers – like the white clover – bloom in the grass.

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