- Museum number
Charity; a woman shaking coins from a purse and parting her cloak with her left hand to reveal her flaming heart, at left a pelican piercing its breast to feed its young; inscribed at lower left: 'B', at lower centre: 'CHARITA XXXVIII' and at lower right: '38'; encircled by a frame of diamonds. c.1465
- Production date
- 1465 (circa)
Height: 179 millimetres
Width: 100 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The print belongs to the first version (called 'E series') of a group of fifty engravings traditionally known as the 'Tarocchi Cards of Mantegna' (for this set see the entry for Hind E.I.1a: P&D 1895-9-15-1). It is one of ten images in the fourth group of the set marked with the letter "B" and illustrates the 'Cosmic Principles' (or 'Genii and Virtues'). The first three images of this group, the so-called 'Genii', do not have artistic precedents and appear to be the invention of the author of the 'Tarocchi' series. They are followed by the seven Virtues who bear recognizable attributes and are traditionally divided into a group of four (the Cardinal Virtues of Temperance, Prudence, Fortitude, and Justice) and another of three (the Theological Virtues of Charity, Hope, and Faith).
St Paul considered Charity the greatest of the virtues; she comprises the love of God ('caritas Dei'), symbolized by the flaming heart, and the love of one's neighbor ('caritas proximi'), represented by the act of dispensing coins. The pelican piercing its breast to feed the young with her blood is a common symbol of Christ's sacrifice to redeem mankind, and here represents Charity's self-sacrificing love.
Other impressions of the print are in Vienna; Paris; Boston; Florence (Galleria degli Uffizi), Florence (Biblioteca Nazionale); Coburg (Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg); Chantilly; in the Chicago Art Institute; in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; in the Cleveland Museum of Art; Hamburg; in the Rothschild collection (Louvre, Paris); Naples (Museo di Capodimonte); in the Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe (Rome); Pavia (Raccolta Malaspina, Museo Civico); in the National Gallery of Art (Washington); and elsewhere.
See also Jay A. Levinson, Konrad Oberhuber, and Jacquelyn Sheehan, Early Italian Engravings from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1973, no. 51.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number