Paolo Veronese

The Choice Between Virtue and Vice, ca. 1565

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About the Artwork

At a crossroads, Hercules encountered Vice, who offered a path of ease and pleasure, and Virtue, who indicated a rugged ascent leading to true happiness — a moral lesson underlined by the motto on the entablature at upper left: [HO]NOR ET VIRTUS/[P]OST MORTE FLORET (Honor and Virtue Flourish after Death). The long talons of Vice have ripped the hero’s stocking. A jagged knife leans against the breast of the sphinx supporting her throne.

All the splendor of Venetian color and light, of the Venetians’ pleasure in beautiful landscapes, skies, and people, in lustrous silks and jewels, are brought together in the Frick’s two large canvases by Veronese, Allegory of Wisdom and Strength and Allegory of Virtue and Vice (The Choice of Hercules). Yet in spite of their fame and the series of prominent collectors who owned them, many uncertainties persist about their dates, provenance, and subject matter. Few of Veronese’s works are firmly dated, and the evolution of his style is not easily traceable. The Frick paintings appear to be fairly late works, but probably not much later than 1580.

Source: Art in The Frick Collection: Paintings, Sculpture, Decorative Arts, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.

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