Virtue Punishing Vice

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Italian School
19th cent.
Bronze with base of painted wood.
bronze: 9 7/8 x 8 1/8 x 3 3/4 inches (250 x 205 x 95 mm); base: 1 3/4 x 9 7/8 x 5 1/4 inches (45 x 250 x 133 mm)
Written in ink on a paper label affixed to the bottom of the base, "Bronze group by Benvento Celini 'Virtue Triumphing over Vice'.
Said to be a gift from the Vatican collection to the physician Charles Thomas Hayden (1786-1824); by descent to Sir Francis Seymour Hayden (1818-1910), London; Robert Langton Douglas (1864-1951); from whom acquired by J. Pierpont Morgan in 1911.

This bronze group is one of many examples of variants and iterations on the pairing of a female figure of Virtue triumphing over a vanquished figure of Vice.These figures, paired together and separate, are found in a number casts that likely span centuries, testifying to their enduring appeal. The design of the figures may be attributed to a late 16th century Roman artist, who created them to surmount a round inkwell, as examples in a private collection and at the J.B. Speed Museum (1949.30.55) suggest. The Morgan's cast belongs to a late point in the tradition, as indicated by the rectangular base and elaborate tail and decorative wings appended to the figure of Vice, and further supported by its early provenance in the Haden collection.


Woman (Virtue) stepping on male winged figure with a tail (Vice).