Virtuti semper adversatur ignorantia

Two engravings – Virtus Combusta and Virtus Deserta – after drawings by Mantegna, captioned thus in the British Museums’ exhibit of 2007:

The two parts of this engraving are based on drawings by Mantegna. The subject is an allegory on the hold of ignorance on humanity. At top right the fat naked woman seated on a globe representing Ignorance reigns. She is served by the blindfolded figure of Fate and emaciated Avarice. At left, a sightless woman accompanied by a satyr symbolising Lust, and Error, a man with an Ass`s ears, stumbles toward a chasm. Below figures have fallen into the pit. One is being rescued by Hermes, the God of Knowledge, demonstrating that Humanity can be saved.

The lower image, Virtus Deserta, features a tumbled stone/brick/column with the inscription “Virtuti S.A.I” – a sort of personal motto of Mantegna’s that expands to virtuti semper adversatur ignorantia – Ignorance is always opposed to virtue.

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