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Allegory of Grammar
Laurent de La Hyre
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This painting is one of a series depicting the Seven Liberal Arts, which represent disciplines associated with learning and language – grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy – as half-length figures of women. Grammar is shown as a woman watering plants, conveying the idea that young minds need encouragement to develop and grow. The Latin inscription on the scroll can be translated as ‘A meaningful and literate word spoken in the correct manner’.

La Hyre’s figure imitates classical sculpture: her drapery appears solid and is arranged in crisp, overlapping folds. Further references to the classical age can be seen in the column and ornate urn.

La Hyre was probably inspired by Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia, an illustrated dictionary in which ideas were represented through images of people. The French edition was published in 1644, about five years before the artist began his series.

Key facts
Artist Laurent de La Hyre
Artist dates 1606 - 1656
Full title Allegory of Grammar
Date made 1650
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 101.9 x 112.2 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated and inscribed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Francis Falconer Madan, 1961
Inventory number NG6329
Location in Gallery Room 29
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