Vice Four, Virtue Zero

Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond

One of the highlights of Virginia’s great Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, is its tapestry hall. This particular 16th century Flemish tapestry is a fragment depicting the seven vices and was originally “balanced” by a similar work showing the seven virtues. Nowhere in the gallery, though, could I find the seven virtues. Little surprise, really. Who wants their vices diluted with virtues?  And yet, not all of the vices are shown, either. Extravagance and Envy are missing, which is understandable because they’re pretty lame vices. But probably the best vice, Gluttony, is somehow missing too (although Sloth, represented here by a lazy monkey runs a close second). Perhaps gluttony warranted its own tapestry or maybe it was simply too big to fit on this one. Some mysteries may never be solved.

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2 Comments on “Vice Four, Virtue Zero”

  1. Suzann November 10, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

    I would like to know why the vices are represented by women?


    • Brian November 11, 2010 at 9:58 am #

      I’d like to say that it is due to the fact that it is a 16th century work with religious inspiration, because that makes me feel superior to those savages of the 1500’s. But that’s not the case.

      Oftentimes, in art, women are used to represent mythological devices . . . the muses, the fates, etc. I didn’t see the sister tapestry, but my guess is that most or all of the virtues were also women. Here’s an example from another Flemish tapestry, woven around the same time, where “Fortitude” is depicted as an armor clad woman strangling a dragon. (No comment on how that imagery might be interpreted today).


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