This small panel by Lotto can be dated to early in his career because of stylistic similarities to Allegory of Virtue and Vice, also in the National Gallery, signed by Lotto and dated 1505. That work originally functioned as the cover of a portrait, now in Naples, of Bernardo de' Rossi, bishop of Treviso. The Allegory of Chastity probably served a similar purpose. Covers not only protected the painting underneath but also allowed the artist to expand on particular facets of the patron's personality or concerns.
The subject of the panel has been the cause for much discussion. A variety of interpretations have been suggested, including the classical, Plutus and the Nymph Rhodos, and the literary, Petrarch's poetic vision of Laura. A cupid showers her with flower petals, while a female satyr gazes around a tree at a male satyr, who is more interested in his jug of wine. The composition is divided horizontally in two parts, the maiden and cupid seen on one level, the satyrs on a lower, baser level. It can be read as a choice between virtue and pleasure, virtus and voluptas, the chaste maiden in repose, or the satyr couple, symbolic in the Renaissance of lust and even evil. It was considered quite appropriate to associate such moralizing themes with portraits.
Marks and Labels
Castelbarco collection, Milan; (Anonymous dealer, Milan); sold 1887 as Hans Rottenhammer to Sir William Martin Conway [1856-1937], Allington Castle, Kent, England; (Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, Florence and Rome); sold 4 October 1934 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1939 to NGA.
- Exhibition of Venetian Art, The New Gallery, London, 1894-1895, no. 80, as Sacred and Profane Love.
- Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1905, no. 18.
- The Venetian School. Pictures by Titian and his Contemporaries. Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1914, no. 21, plate XIV, as The Maiden's Dream.
- International Exhibition: Antiques and Works of Art Organized by the Daily Telegraph at Olympia, London, 1928, no. X29, as Danae: The Maiden's Dream.
- Exhibition of Italian Art: 1200-1900, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1930, no. 403, as A Maiden's Dream (no. 345, pl. XCCCI in commemorative catalogue published 1931; not in souvenir catalogue).
- Night Scenes, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, 1940, no. 11, as A Maiden's Dream.
- Berenson and the Connoisseurship of Italian Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1979, no. 21, repro.
- The Pastoral Landscape: The Legacy of Venice, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988-1989, no. 14, fig. 67.
- Lorenzo Lotto: Rediscovered Master of the Renaissance, Natl. Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Accademia Carrara di Belle Arti, Bergamo; Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 1997-1999, no. 5, repro., as Allegory of Chastity ("Maiden's Dream").
- Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 2006-2007, no. 37, repro. as Allegory of Chastity ("Maiden's Dream").
- Lorenzo Lotto, Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, 2011, no. 51, repro.
- Il Sogno nel Rinascimento [Florence], La Renaissance et le rêve: Bosch, Véronèse, Greco... [Paris], Galleria Palatina--Palazzo Piti, Florence; Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 2013-2014, no. 27, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. Washington, 1941: 114, no. 258, as A Maiden's Dream.
- Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 244, repro. 138.
- Frankfurter, Alfred M. The Kress Collection in the National Gallery. New York, 1944: repro. no. 89
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1945 (reprinted 1947, 1949): 96, repro.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 56, color repro.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 161, repro.
- The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 23, repro.
- Seymour 1961 (Kress), 100, color repro. pl. 90
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 303, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 78.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:168, color repro.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 68, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XV-XVI Century. London, 1968: 158-159, fig. 386.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 200, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: 1:275-277, 2:pl. 191, as Plutus and the Nymph Rhodos.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 191, no. 219, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 234, repro.
- National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 27, repro.
- Pozzolo, Enrico Maria dal. "Laura tra Polia e Berenice di Lorenzo Lotto." Artibus et Historiae 25 (1992): 103-127, repro.
- Lorenzo Lotto: Rediscovered Master of the Renaissance. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Accademia Carrara di Belle Arti, Bergamo; Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 1997-1999: no. 5.
- Colalucci, Francesco. Bergamo Negli Anni di Lotto: Pittura, Guerra e Società. Bergamo, 1998: 113-115, 122, repro.
- Shefer, Elaine. "Dreams/Visions." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 1:259.
- Jugie, Sophie. “Consultation sur place” card for Lorenzo Lotto, Portrait de femme. Musée des Beaux Arts, Dijon. Dijon, 2002: verso, color fig. 6.
- The Editors. "Listings: Agenda." Apollo 117, no. 609 (May 2013): 21, color repro.