National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Charity Giovanni di Balduccio (artist)
Pisan, active 1318/1319 - 1349
Charity, c. 1330
overall: 45.1 x 35.3 cm (17 3/4 x 13 7/8 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: Italian Altarpieces and Religious Sculpture of the 1300s
Object 4 of 8

Giovanni di Balduccio’s Charity is characteristic of the medieval and Renaissance practice of personifying the Christian virtues as human figures with identifying attributes. Charity here has a scroll bearing her name and a startling combination of the attributes associated with that virtue: a flaming heart, and infants who nurse on milk flowing from her bosom. She looks heavenward, the irises of her eyes inset with metal accents.

The quatrefoil or four-lobed shape of the lozenge from which Charity and the children seem to emerge is typical of ornamental forms that also appear in Gothic manuscript illumination, stained glass, and architecture. The marble relief comes from a set of at least sixteen, whose surviving elements represent Christ’s twelve apostles and the virtues of Truth, Obedience, Poverty, and Charity. Most are still set into the outside walls of the church of Orsanmichele in Florence.

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