An Allegory ('Vision of a Knight')

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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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.

The National Gallery, London



An Allegory ('Vision of a Knight')


about 1504


Oil on poplar


H 17.1 x W 17.3 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1847

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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