Adriaen de Vries was one of the leading late Renaissance masters of northern Europe. His heroic figures -- female as well as male -- reflect study of the antique and of Michelangelo's sculpture, with an emphasis on self-consciously complicated, twisting poses.
Adriaen devised this bronze allegory for the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, who had appointed him court sculptor at Prague in 1601. Once thought simply to represent "Virtue Overcoming Vice," the bronze has recently been interpreted as a specific theme close to the Emperor's heart. The dominant female figure, crowned with laurel, symbolizes Empire. The second laurel wreath she holds high proclaims her victory over a figure with ass' ears and a bag of gold coins that identify her as Avarice (the ears and the gold come from the ancient myth of King Midas, known for his greed and bad judgment). Rudolf was fighting, none too successfully, in wars against the Turks, and also struggling with the lands he ruled that were reluctant to grant the funds he needed to continue. The bronze gives form to his wish for triumph over both adversaries. The sculptor gave psychological force to this symbolic program in the rippling tension of the torsos and in the gaze that passes between the coolly imperious victor and the distraught vanquished.
on base: ADRIANUS FRIES FE 1610
Marks and Labels
Peter A.B. Widener [1834-1915], Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.
- Prag um 1600: Kunst und Kultur am Hofe Rudolps II, Kulturstiftung Ruhr, Villa Hügel, Essen-Bredeney, Federal Republic of Germany; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria, 1988, no. 60, repro.
- Dawn of the Golden Age: Northern Netherlandish Art 1580-1620, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1993-1994, no. 182, repro., as Allegory of the Triumph of Virtue over Vice.
- Rudolf II and Prague: The Imperial Court and Residential City as the Cultural and Spiritual Heart of Central Europe, Prague Castle Picture Gallery, 1997, no. I.129.
- Adriaen de Vries (1556-1626), imperial sculptor, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Nationalmuseum, Stockholm; J. Paul Getty Mus., Los Angeles, 1998-2000, no. 24, repro., as Allegory of Imperium triumphant over Avaritia (shown only in Stockholm and Los Angeles)
- L'Europe de Rubens, Musée du Louvre-Lens, 2013, no. 140, repro.
- Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 9, as Virtue and Vice.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 157, repro., as Virtue and Vice.
- Seymour, Charles. Masterpieces of Sculpture from the National Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1949: 182, note 48, repro. 147, 149-151, as Virtue and Vice.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 54
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 173, as Virtue and Vice.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 153, repro., as Virtue and Vice.
- Seymour, Charles, Jr. "The Mercury in the Rotunda of the National Gallery of Art." Studies in the History of Art (1968-69):1-25, repro.
- Kaufmann, Thomas Dacosta. "Empire Triumphant: Notes on an Imperial Allegory by Adriaen de Vries." Studies in the History of Art vol. 8 (1978):63-75, repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 639, no. 1004, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 296, repro.
- Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 235, repro.
- National Gallery of Art Special Issue. Connaissance des Arts. Paris, 2000: repro. 58, 59, 61.