DELL, Peter the Elder
(b. ca. 1490, Würzburg, d. 1552, Würzburg)

Allegory of Faith

Limewood, 51 x 72 cm
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

Lutheran art has a distinctly didactic character. The sensuality of earlier religious art is replaced by a visual rigidity; image and scriptural texts are frequently combined. Representations such as the Allegory of Faith are as much read as they are viewed.

In this wood relief, an attractively dressed young woman personifying the human soul is seated in a ship. She originally steered this ship with a rudder inscribed 'the Christian life'. This ship of life is made of flesh and blood; its sail and rigging are love and patience; its shield is faith; and its compass is the word of God. This pilgrimage of life takes her from the earthly city in flames in the upper left to Christ on the opposite shore. En route she is attacked by Death, the Devil and Frau Welt (the Lady of the World), each aiming three arrows at her. Soul will not be distracted as she gazes at the radiant face of God in the sky above. On the left stands St Paul with a large placard.