Allegory of Gluttony

Here, Gluttony is depicted as a grotesquely haggard old woman. Her canine teeth bite rapaciously into a chicken leg, torn from the pullet she holds in her right hand. To her left, a young man sits perched atop a wine barrel, emptying a colossal glass of wine. A wild boar is seated between the two greedy figures. The scene is set within a vaulted room; there is a large aperture at the back, with countryside beyond. Game birds, in the form of a plucked turkey and a goose, hang from the ceiling. On the right wall, roundels of cheese are piled on a sharply foreshortened shelf.

This sheet belongs to a famous series of the Seven Cardinal (or Deadly) Sins, of which five others are known: Lust and Sloth (Musee du Louvre, Paris), Pride and Envy (Niedersachsisches Landesmuseum, Hanover), and Avarice (National Gallery of Art, Washington). It seems that the set was broken up in the eighteenth century, certainly by 1796 when the Louvre sheets were looted by the French army from the d'Este collection in Modena. The drawings all demonstrate two parallel obsessions of late sixteenth­century court culture: on the one hand with luxury and refinement, and on the other with sin and violent damnation as driven by the fervent devotion of the Counter Reformation.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the series is the rich and highly worked technique, with liberal gold heightening. This level of finish suggests that the drawings were intended as works of art in themselves, studiolo/kunstkammer objects for private study and wonderment.

Pen and brown ink and brown wash heightened with gold on yellowish brown prepared paper (1590)

by Jacopo Ligozzi (Italian, 1547-1626)

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