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Giovanni Battista Moroni, The Vestal Virgin Tuccia

Key facts
Full title The Vestal Virgin Tuccia
Artist Giovanni Battista Moroni
Artist dates 1520/4 - 1579
Date made about 1555
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 152.5 × 86.9 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3123
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Vestal Virgin Tuccia
Giovanni Battista Moroni

This picture is unusual among Moroni’s secular paintings: the others that survive are all portraits. It is the only single-figure allegorical painting known by him and is likely to date from about 1560. The woman may be intended as a personification of Chastity but she also represents the Roman priestess of Vesta, Tuccia.

According to legend, when the Vestal Virgin Tuccia was accused of breaking her vows she proved her chastity by carrying water from the River Tiber in a sieve. Moroni shows the sieve as a colander, and the water-line can be seen just above the holes. The inscription on the stone tablet comes from the Roman author Valerius Maximus and means ‘Chastity emerges from the dark clouds of infamy’.

Tuccia was frequently included in series of paintings of virtuous women made between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. This picture may have been one of a series, perhaps made for a civic or judicial building, or possibly a convent.

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