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Luca Giordano, Allegory of Temperance

Key facts
Full title Allegory of Temperance
Artist Luca Giordano
Artist dates 1634 - 1705
Series Modelli for the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence
Date made early 1680s
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 97 × 101.3 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by the Trustees of Sir Denis Mahon's Charitable Trust through the Art Fund, 2013
Inventory number NG6635
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Allegory of Temperance
Luca Giordano

This modello, or detailed oil study, is one of a group of 12 that Giordano made in preparation for the ceiling frescoes in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in 1682–85. Ten of the modelli are in the National Gallery'​s collection, and this one represents ​one of the four Cardinal Virtues. First identified by the philosopher Plato, these were later adopted by the Roman Catholic Church. A different Virtue is depicted in each corner of the ceiling.

Here the Virtue is Temperance, shown as a young woman wearing an armoured breastplate and leaning on an elephant, then regarded as strong but cautious animals. Beside her stands Sobriety and together they triumph over Sloth (languishing on the left), Envy (in the centre) and Hunger (to the right, chewing on a bone). The figures flying above the scene are probably Voluptuousness (holding a winged sphere and fish hooks), Youth (in the centre) and Tranquillity (with a cornucopia and a white bird in a nest).

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Modelli for the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence


This group of ten paintings was made by Giordano as a series of detailed oil studies (or modelli) for the ceiling frescoes in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence, which are among the artist’s finest achievements. The modelli are part of a set of 12 (the other two are in private collections).

Nine of the paintings relate to the ceiling of the highly ornate Galleria, built to house a precious collection of antiquities and function as a public reception room. The other is associated with the ceiling of the adjacent Library. The overall theme in the Galleria is the elevation of mankind through Wisdom and Virtue, using allegorical and mythological figures to represent different strengths and traits. It culminates in a centrepiece which presents the wealthy Medici family as the paradigm of both these qualities.

Giordano seems to have worked up these modelli to clarify his designs and may have presented them to his client, the Marquess Francesco Riccardi, for approval before the frescoes were executed.