GIOVANNI and PACIO DA FIRENZE
(documented 1343-1345)

Vultus trifrons or an Allegory of Prudence

1340s
Marble, height 23 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The three faces on this small bust, a fragment from a larger monument, represent the cardinal virtue Prudence. Prudence's three natures (memory, intelligence, and providence) are represented by a crowned face shown at different stages of life. This personification thus conflates Prudence with the concept of the Ages of Man. This iconography represents a merger of two separate pictorial traditions: that of the Three Ages of Man and of the vultus trifrons, or triple-headed figure.

The statue is attributed to the Florentine brothers Giovanni and Pacio da Firenze. Parallels between the style of the brothers and the present marble fragment are seen in the strong feeling for simple, plastic forms, the oval-shaped heads, full lips and cheeks, the shape of the eyes and the simple but effective treatment of the hair. Convincing comparisons may be made with a number of figures from the tomb of Robert of Anjou. However, it cannot be excluded that the fragment is the work of another follower of Tino di Camaino.