(b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)

Theological Virtues (Faith)

Oil on wood, 16 x 44 cm
Pinacoteca, Vatican

Three compositions, executed in a delicate monochrome and showing the Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity), combine to form the predella of an altarpiece that Atalanta Baglioni commissioned from Raphael, possibly toward the middle of the year 1506, for the family chapel in the church of S. Francesco al Prato in Perugia. The noblewoman intended the work to commemorate her son, Grifonetto, who had been assassinated in July 1500 during the struggles between rival branches of her family to establish control over Perugia.

The altarpiece was originally composed of a large central panel showing the Deposition of Christ (now in the Borghese Gallery, Rome), a pinnacle with God the Father, Blessing between Angels (painted by a pupil, now in the National Gallery of Umbria, Perugia), and the predella. Both the main panel and the predella were carried from Perugia to Rome by Pope Paul V. They were replaced by copies in 1608.

Charity, which dominates the predella from its central position, is the most complex of the three predella figures. The tondo with the personification of the virtue has clearly been influenced by Michelangelo's Pitti Madonna; on one side a putto holds a flaming torch on its shoulders, while on the other a putto tips coins out of a bowl. Hope, forming the right-hand section of the predella, has at its centre the allegorical figure. On either side are putti in confident attitudes. Faith, traditionally identified by the chalice and host, is flanked by two small angels holding plaques with the Greek inscriptions "CPX" and "IHS," alluding to the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.