PERUGINO, Pietro
(b. 1450, Citta della Pieve, d. 1523, Perugia)

Famous Men of Antiquity (1)

1497-1500
Fresco, 293 x 418 cm
Collegio del Cambio, Perugia

Each of the two compartments (lunettes) on the left wall presents a row of six figures standing in front of a low landscape horizon. Above these, personifications of the four cardinal virtues sit enthroned on clouds, two in each lunette. Beside each of the Virtues is an ornamental inscription tablet flanked by putti and containing a Latin distich identifying her and celebrating the exemplars below. Each trio of figures is made up of two Romans and one Greek; their names appear on the ground beneath their feet.

The represented famous men in the first compartment are Fabius Maximus, Socrates, Numa Pompilius, Furius Camillus, Pittacus, and Trajan. Above them the Cardinal Virtues Prudentia and Justitia are depicted. At the right we can see Perugino's self-portrait.

For his arrangement of the heroes in the lunettes, Perugino borrowed from Ghirlandaio's paintings in the Sala dei Gigli in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio. More than likely he knew those works firsthand, for he had himself been commissioned to execute some of the paintings in that room in 1482.

The combination of ancient heroes with personifications of Virtues was prefigured in the cycle of paintings by Taddeo di Bartolo for the antechapel of the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena.