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Raphael, The Dream of a Knight

Key facts
Full title The Dream of a Knight
Artist Raphael
Artist dates 1483 - 1520
Date made about 1504
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 17.1 × 17.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1847
Inventory number NG213
Location Room 26
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Dream of a Knight

While resting in the shade of a bay tree, the young soldier Scipio has a vision of Virtue and her adversary Pleasure. Virtue promises Scipio honour, fame and glory through victory in war. Pleasure, with fragrant flowing hair, promises a life of ease and serenity.

Raphael interpreted the theme not as a moral dilemma but as a combination of all the virtues to which an ideal soldier should aspire. An Allegory is first recorded in the Borghese collection in Rome in the seventeenth century with Raphael’s The Three Graces (Musée Condé, Chantilly), which is identical in size and style. The combination of the traditionally masculine virtues of courage, learning and love with the traditionally feminine virtues of chastity, beauty and love suggest that the two little paintings may have been made to mark the occasion of a marriage.

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