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Italian, Florentine, An Allegory

Key facts
Full title An Allegory
Artist Italian, Florentine
Date made about 1500
Medium and support Tempera and oil on wood
Dimensions 92.1 × 172.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1874
Inventory number NG916
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
An Allegory
Italian, Florentine

Propped up on a pink cushion, this young, fair-haired woman – the ideal of beauty in Renaissance Florence – gazes directly at us. She seems oblivious to the three chubby little boys around her, clutching at handfuls of pink roses.

This idealised beauty may represent fertility, with which the pomegranate – tucked under her arm – containing many seeds was often associated. The picture’s long horizontal format, the reclining blonde in a white dress and playful children recall Botticelli’s Venus and Mars, also in the National Gallery’s collection.

We do not know who the artist was, but the picture may be based on Venus and Mars. Like that painting, it may have been placed in the room of a newly wed Florentine couple in order to encourage fertility and, therefore, the birth of many children to carry on the family name.

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