Giorgio Vasari’s Justice: Political Glory for the Farnese FamilyLiana De Girolami Cheney Iconocrazia 10/2016 - "Arts & Politics. Rhetorical Quests in Cultural Imaging", Saggi
“Tu hai da essere di poi me capo e temone de casa tua”*
Pope Paul III (Alessandro Farnese)
This essay** focuses on the political artistic patronage of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese illustrated in one of Giorgio Vasari’s paintings, the Farnese Justice of 1543, now at the Museum of Capodimonte in Naples, and its modello or disegno in the Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth, UK. Three issues will be considered: 1) history of the commission; 2) sources for the concept of Justice; and 3) emblematic symbolism in the painting.
1. History of the Commission
Alessandro Farnese (1520–1589), son of Pier Luigi Farnese, Duke of Parma, was appointed at age fourteen as Cardinal Deacon by his grandfather, Pope Paul III (Alessandro Farnese [1468–1549], pontiff 1534–1549). During his lifetime, Cardinal Farnese received numerous diplomatic appointments from his grandfather: Papal Secretary (1538); Papal Legate between Emperor Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and King Francis I of France; and Protector of the Holy Roman Empire and Spain before the Holy See (1541). In addition to being an adroit politician and diplomat, Cardinal Farnese also was an avid collector of Roman antiquities, ancient coins, illuminated manuscripts and Renaissance drawings. An art lover, he commissioned artists and sponsored the arts, including the decorations at Villa Caprarola, Palazzo della Cancelleria and Palazzo Farnese as well as the formation of the Farnese Botanical Gardens. He also established an intellectual salotto with artists, humanists and Roman intelligentsia, including the historiographer Paolo Giovio (1483–1552), classical scholar Annibale Caro (1507–1566) and the artist Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574).
Vasari’s classical training and cultural connections with humanists of the Florentine and Roman courts provided him with exceptional artistic commissions. Under the luminary Paolo Giovio (an Italian physician and prelate, well versed as biographer, historian and imprese literato), Vasari composed ingenious conceits for drawings, paintings and decorative cycles to honour the Farnese family, especially Cardinal Farnese. In a 1543 letter, Giovio informed Cardinal Farnese on how strongly he had encouraged Vasari to portray a personification of Justice in the manner of the ancient painters cited by Pliny.
In 1543, Giorgio Vasari received a commission from Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520–1589) to paint a personification of Justice. Vasari described the invenzione for this imagery in two accounts: an abbreviated version in his book of Ricordanze or Carteggio and a letter to his patron, Cardinal Farnese. There are differences between the description of the commission and the visual depiction of the commission, first in a drawing and then finalized in a painting (Figs. 1 and 2).
The ricordo stated:
I remember that on January 6, 1543, the illustrious and reverend Cardinal Farnese commissioned me to paint a large panel of six by four and one-half braccia to be placed in the sala of the Cancelleria in Rome, that is, in the Palace of S. George. The story in the painting is based on a drawing shown to the prelate. Justice has seven vices in golden chains tied to her girdle and keeps them prisoners. Below her are Corruption, Ignorance, Cruelty, Fear and Treason. Above Falsehood and Slander is a nude female representing Truth who is held by Time. Justice is putting an oaken crown to her head. She [Justice] is embracing an ostrich laden with the twelve tablets; many putti carry arms to arm and defend Justice, as seen in the drawing. As agreed the painting will be in oils and done with great care, requesting the payment of 200 scudi. [Bindo Altoviti and his bank will be in charge of the transaction].
Vasari’s January 20, 1543 letter to the Cardinal explained in great detail the symbolism of the personification in the preparatory drawing.
The requested drawing for the painting is sent rolled up in a tube. The invenzione is as follows: The Pandects of Justinian are the modern versions of the laws founded by Astraea, who rigorously observes them. She is naked from the middle upwards; revealing her almost disrobed of all passions that offend judges. From her girdle, seven chains hold seven abominable vices prisoner. One is Corruption, turning away from the chain to see [in front of Corruption] the money, jewellery and the symbols of power. But the second [vice] next to Corruption is Ignorance, who is accompanied by a donkey. Above her is Cruelty, who turns her face around without looking at anybody. Above the well-gilded Justice is an ostrich; he stands next to her right hand. He is aerial and terrestrial as she is human and divine; he smelts the iron because he purges for her any ignominy. He has even wings and proper features, positioned in the pyramids as a symbol of Justice by the Egyptians. As seen in the painting, the 12 tablets of Romulus, ancient father of religion, embraced by Justice, on her right, together with the sceptre, symbol of power. Above it, a hippopotamus, an animal that kills his mother and father and any relative without any care, similar to a just judge, who does not forgive a neighbour. The other four unmentioned vices are Treason and Fear, hidden away, and Falsehood and Slander, together interlocked with Truth, who is presented by Time, her father; she donates doves as a simple tribute. Justice honours her with an oaken crown, representing her spiritual fortitude. And not forgetting the other laws, the laws of Moses are placed above the globe and in the middle [of the composition where Justice is resting her foot] are two books of civil and canonical institutions. The putti with arms as well as dictator’s fasces, located between the legs of the vices, truly demonstrate how [during their reign] they misused these powers.
On receiving Vasari’s disegno, the cardinal responded in a letter that expressed his delight in viewing the drawing (‘visto più di una volta il disegno’) and studying the description of the invenzione (‘l’interpretazione mi e stata carissima’) and his admiration for the newness of the narrative and the beauty of the images (‘novità della storia come bellezza delle figure’). The cardinal enthusiastically commissioned the painting, which was delivered a year later on December 5, 1543.
The discrepancies between Vasari’s description of the invenzione of the preparatory drawing and the ricordo of the finished painting raise questions about the iconographic sources for the complex symbolism of Justice. Other inquiries probe the connections between the written text and the depicted image for the Mannerist conceit of Justice. In a previous essay I wrote about Vasari’s Justice as a personification of Astraea. In this essay, I examine Vasari’s Justice as a visual political aggrandizement of Cardinal Farnese in Rome with two considerations: biblical and classical.
2. Sources for the Concept of Justice
Vasari’s interpretation of the meaning of justice derived from the Judeo-Christian and classical traditions. From the biblical tradition, the Hebrew words “sedeq” or “mishpat” meaning “right” or “righteous” allude to two aspects of justice: personal and social. Personal justice combines aspects of an individual’s good conduct and rights, while social conduct implies legal proceedings, governmental responsibilities of a ruler. But the Hebrew word “shalom” is the clearest association of the word “justice” with a social order, since it combines the fairness of justice with restorative justice or peace. Biblical human justice is based on God’s law (delivered to Moses at Mount Sinai (Exod. 23:1–9 and Deut. 25:1–3) and emulates God’s fair judgement and love for humankind when relating to human behaviour (Amos 5:21–24; Isa. 40:14).
In the classical tradition, the meaning of “justice” derived from the Latin jus (right or law). Plato and Aristotle best explained the meaning and implication of this concept. Plato held justice to be of two types: natural and conventional (Republic 4:427). In an ideal city, justice regulates the actions of the citizens with the other cardinal virtues. Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics 4:10) also identified two kinds of justice: distributive and retributive.
During the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas combined the biblical and classical traditions as well, considering two aspects of justice: natural and rational, both discernible through the exercise of reason (S. Theol. I-II: 61). Thus in medieval and Renaissance art, Justice, the leader of the cardinal virtues (Fortitude, Prudence and Temperance), was frequently represented in public buildings wherever the law was administered, as seen in Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Justice, as an allegory of good government of 1340 for the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena (Fig. 3).
This type of justice combines the biblical laws of Moses as represented in Michelangelo’s Moses, 1513 (now in San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome), and the Roman law of Romulus in Bernard van Orley, Romulus Giving the Law to the Romans, 1524 (at Staatliche Graphisce Sammlung München) (Figs. 4 and 5).
In his sixteenth-century compendium of images on the theme of justice, Vasari depicted two versions of Justice – one alludes to impartiality, while the other incorporates ethical and divine good. Examples of the first type are represented in the Venetian, Aretine, Neapolitan and Roman decorative cycles. But the most complex symbolism is seen in the second type, depicted in the Farnese Justice of 1543. Here I will show that the Farnese Justice reveals an artistic political invention that exemplifies a Maniera conceit of shalom, honouring Cardinal Alessandro Farnese as a Roman papal diplomat upholding secular and divine laws (Figs. 1 and 2).
3. Emblematic Symbolism of Justice
In the centre of the Farnese painting, Justice – also considered as a personification of Astraea – is comfortably seated, resting her feet on large books, symbols of knowledge and legal codices. Her breasts are revealed, alluding to her truthful nature. She is wearing a Roman soldier’s boots and a helmet with ostrich plumes. According to emblematists, Egyptians associated ostrich plumes with Justice because of the plumes’ evenness of length and design.
For the image of Justice, Vasari was also visually influenced by Roman reliefs portraying the personification of the goddess Roma, as seen in the relief of The Apotheosis of Antoninus Pius and Faustina at the base of the column of Antoninus Pius of 161 in Rome (Fig. 6).
In the lower right of the relief, Roma, seated on a formal throne, is dressed in her finest ceremonial attire – a high-plumed helmet crowned with a sphinx, a royal toga exposing her right breast and decorated military boots. Roma rests her arm on a shielded [sheathed?] sword and a garland shield containing the symbols of Rome. The centre of the shield portrays the lupa nursing the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. Roma also holds an oar that rests on agitated sea waves, alluding to her cunning power to navigate and govern through difficult moments. The oar is also a symbol of Fortuna, an association with proper guidance, hence Roma’s good government (Fig. 7).The instruments of war are at her feet: weapons, a military helmet and a war shield. This image of Roma combines her peaceful and warrior aspects, similar to the goddess Minerva. However, Roma’s exposed breast further alludes to her Amazonian origin and nature, and her connection with Mars, the Roman god of war.
In the relief, Roma embodies two meanings. One is a temporal symbol as the city itself, achieved by presiding over the glorification scene of the emperor and his wife in Campus Martius. The second meaning – communicated by her ceremonial attire, her hand gesture and the rudder – is a symbol of divinity, viz., Fortuna, the Roman goddess of luck, who steers the course of the individual. Roman epithets refer to the personification of Roma with the goddess Fortuna’s names, such as Redux, Conservatrix, Publica and Privata. Several temples were also dedicated in Fortuna’s honour, including the Temple of Fortuna Virilis of the second century bce in Rome.
In the Farnese Justice, Vasari appropriates the attributes and symbolism of the personification of Roma in the figure of Justice in the seated pose, attire and motifs – in particular, the elaborate helmet that she wears, which is composed of fine metal and fancy plumes. The feathery ostrich plumes protect the bronze statue of a sphinx, while the rest of the metal cap composed of silver and gold is ornamented with grotteschi. The visor of the helmet that protects her tresses is in the shape of a lion’s head, alluding to her powerful heroic disposition and her fortitude.
In addition, Vasari’s assimilation of the personification of Roma is designed to honour and praise the diplomatic successes not only of his patron, Cardinal Farnese, as a Roman and papal ambassador during the European political disputes but also of his earlier ancestor, Pope Paul III, for his impartiality and wisdom in guiding the Christian kingdom and his peaceful political leadership. In his personification of Justice, Vasari symbolically unites past and present triumphs of those Roman individuals who acted with justice. He creates a visual parallelism between temporal and pagan personifications of ancient Rome and Roman rulers, such as Romulus and his laws, with spiritual and Christian personifications of Old and New Testament prefigurations of moral and peaceful governance. Hence, Moses becomes a prefiguration of Christ, and the apostle Peter anointed by Christ becomes His vicar on earth, prefiguring Christ’s church and papacy. With the inherited Mosaic laws, the Christian papacy and its institution under the Farnese family has obediently followed God’s mandate with justice in Rome and elsewhere.
In Vasari’s painting, Justice embraces an ostrich-camelus on her right. The name derives from the Greek strutio, meaning sparrow or bird. To avoid confusion between a small sparrow and an ostrich, the Greek adds a qualifier megas or camelus, relating to the large feet and legs of the bird or ostrich. Ancient writers associated the ostrich with Justice because it was believed that this animal could even chew or digest iron nails. For them, this reference alluded to the incredible patience exercised by individuals when administering justice. In the Cinquecento, Giovio too employed the ostrich symbolism in one of his imprese for Girolamo Mattei Romano, a captain in the papal army of Pope Clement VII (Giuliano de’ Medici, 1523–1534). Giovio’s impresa illustrates an ostrich chewing on an iron nail, surrounded by scrolls with a motto, “Spiritus durissima coquit” (It digests even the hardest substance), symbolizing the courage required to impart justice in civil or divine law (Fig. 8).In Vasari’s painting, the ostrich carries a load containing the tablets of the law on which the Roman numeral twelve is inscribed. The reference here is to pagan codices on moral conduct and governance according to Romulus’ Roman laws as well as to Judeo-Christian moral laws alluding to Moses’ tablets or God’s Ten Commandments. In describing his invenzione, Vasari stated: “And not forgetting the other laws, the laws of Moses are placed above the globe and in the middle [of the composition where Justice is resting her foot] are two books of civil and canonical institutions”.
Vasari’s Justice carries in one hand a sceptre crowned with an animal that Vasari describes as “a hippopotamus, an animal that kills his mother and father and any relative without any care, similar to a just judge, who does not forgive a neighbour”. For Pliny and Horapollo, the hippopotamus resembles a river horse (Natural History VIII, XXV and XXVI). Horapollo and Valeriano associated him with the symbol of time because at a practical level he ate his food at the same time, but at the abstract level he was associated with the season of spring and the Egyptian female divinity Tauert-Rert. The painted animal resembles a bull more than a hippopotamus. Valeriano, assimilating Horapollo’s references to the virtues of courage and continence in his Hieroglyph XI, noted that for the Egyptians, the bull was a symbol for a man with the virtue of temperance.
With the other hand, Justice crowns a young female. Her angelic attire contrasts with Justice’s militant decor. Her symbolism is as complex as the personification of Justice. The angelic figure is discalced and wears white apparel that partially covers her body. Her nudity and white attire allude to her purity of heart and soul, both symbols of Innocence and Truth. Her tresses are adorned with white veils and chains of diamonds, and a large pyramidal diamond crowns her forehead. These precious gems allude to her courage and fortitude of character in adversity, as noted in Valeriano’s Hieroglyph XLI. This personification of Fortitude and Truth gifts Justice with two birds in a basket as a gesture of love and courage. In his painting, Vasari appropriates Giovio’s impresa of Nous savons bien le temp (“We know the cost of time in adversity”) for the depiction of the birds, which are an allusion to doves and to halcyons (Fig. 9).Hence the personification of Time introducing Courage and Truth to Justice, alluding to Justice’s required valour and honest actions in moral and political conflicts.
Time is depicted with his traditional attributes of an old man with wings on his head and carrying an hourglass. In the Farnese Justice, Vasari implies two types of time: the temporal or seasonal, which is finite, governed by natural laws; and spatial time, which is infinite, governed by divine laws. This references Cardinal Farnese’s prudent actions, which are ruled by both types of laws when conducting diplomatic relations. Behind the personification of Time, a lectern stands on a platform. Atop the lectern are a sword, a globe and the tablets of Moses, corresponding to Vasari’s description, “The laws of Moses are placed above the globe”. With the depiction of the globe, Vasari associates Justice with astral and divine connections, whereas with the inclusion of the tablets, he alludes to biblical and ancient Roman laws.
Behind the trio of Justice, Truth and Time, Vasari portrays the Roman Temple of Janus or Fortuna Virilis. Mischievous putti descend to the podium carrying garlands as well as instruments of war, such as Mars’ helmet and his armour. Between the columns are visible large rectangular slabs, alluding to the now open doors of Janus’ Temple. For this composition, Vasari relies once again on antique reliefs depicting war and peace. The open doors allude to ancient Roman peace as well as to the present Roman armistice Cardinal Farnese achieved while Papal Legate.
The representations in the foreground of the painting present an iconographical challenge. However, Vasari’s notations in the preparatory drawing for the painting provide the clavis interpretandi for some of these personifications, implying that they are attributes of Injustice. In the disegno, Vasari identifies each foreground vice with a written name, for example, from left to right: ‘iniustia’ for Injustice, ‘ignoranza’ for Ignorance, ‘corringo’ for Corruption or Cruelty, ‘busgia’ for Falsehood, ‘tradimento’ for Treason, ‘maledicent’ for Slander, and ‘timore’ for Fear. Vasari’s Justice wears a belt with seven golden chains connecting to seven bound figures placed at her feet that represent vices. Closer analysis reveals that these captive figures represent the numerous aspects of Injustice.
In the disegno, most of the vices are depicted by male figures, whereas in the painting, they are represented by female and male figures. In the painting, Cruelty or Injustice is portrayed by a female figure whose back is turned to the viewer. At first glance, she appears to be a personification of Justice, since she is attired and holds the attributes of Justice. After careful inspection, however, it can be seen that she epitomizes Injustice because she carries a bent sceptre, a symbol of the inability to govern, and wears a helmet with red plumes, a symbol of war, like the helmet of Mars, the god of War. Next to Injustice is Ignorance holding her attribute, a donkey’s head. Vasari’s Ignorance is a visual quotation of Horapollo and Valeriano’s description of Ignorance. For instance, Valeriano wrote that, according to the Egyptians, “the donkey – its head – in particular, was a symbol for mental detachment from holy and religious aspects. The Egyptians employ this symbol to represent those people who have vile and blasphemous thoughts”. Horapollo and Valeriano as well as Ripa, subsequently, considered the donkey to be a symbol of laziness and stupidity (Acidia).
Relying on Vasari’s preparatory drawing and writings, the figure next to Injustice and Ignorance can be identified as Envy or Slander. Adjacent to Justice, an old man representing Falsehood sheepishly gazes at her, while deceitfully appearing to support the figure of Truth. The two heads barely visible between Truth and Justice are Fear and Treason.
After the depiction of Justice, in terms of its iconographical meaning, the most complex of these personifications is Corruption or, in Vasari words, Corrivo or Corringo (Indulgence). Vasari depicts the personification of Corruption or Indulgence as an old man who is tied up at the feet of Justice. Corruption has discarded the Roman fasces, symbol of impartiality, preferring instead to look at still life objects in front of him that represent instruments or symbols of corruption or injustice.
Vasari presented these still life objects as a series of hieroglyphics depicting aspects of corruption or vices. Collectively they provide a moral allusion to the brevity of material power, an allusion of vanitas. Earlier in 1540, in a drawing of Allegory of Avarice or The Allegory of the Seven Deadly Sins (also in the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth, Fig. 10), where above the dormant figure a wheel contains the seven deadly sins depicted as pictorial devices or hieroglyphs, Vasari portrayed a similar composition alluding to the same moral implication of human corruption.
The clavis interpretandi of the vanitas objects in the Farnese Justice is found in the hieroglyphs of the turning wheel in the drawing of the Allegory of Avarice. The hieroglyphs in the wheel, from left to right, are: a drinking vessel alluding to ebrietas or gula; a toad holding an obelisk to imply cupiditas or slot; a snake to recall envy; an upside-down or falling castle to suggest pride; an alchemist’s knife alluding to ira; (anger); a boar symbolizing luxuria; and a hand holding a bag to represent avarice. They allude to Prudentius’ seven deadly sins considered in the Pyschomachia.
In comparing the two drawings, Allegory of Avarice and the Farnese Justice at Chatsworth, the following observations are noted. Vasari depicted Corruption as a male figure admiring his attributes of licentiousness, wickedness and depravity of power, alluding to the seven deadly sins. An elegant pitcher, for example, serves as a symbol of intemperance; a drinking vessel alludes to the deadly sin of gula; a crown and sceptre refer to the deadly sin of superbia; coins, jewellery, precious stones and coral represent symbols of luxuria; and a leather bag is a sign of avarice. The personification of Corruption is surrounded by the sins of transgression of bad governance and injustice. These attributes of negative conduct contrast with good judgement and governance. In the Chatsworth drawing, Vasari’s invenzione may moralize and warn about human weakness and fear, in particular alluding to the Cardinal’s diplomatic intervention in dealing with the unchristian ambitions and corruption of the present European sovereigns.
In the Farnese Justice, Vasari responded both visually and iconographically to a renewed interest by sixteenth-century humanists and artists in interpreting and incorporating symbols, allegories and personifications in their art. The desire on the part of artists, particularly Vasari, to glorify their patrons by connecting them with their historical lineage and moral personifications of the Good is paralleled by patrons such as Cardinal Farnese wishing to aggrandize their own and their family’s status through their forbearers’ pedigree by allegorical portrayals of virtuous images. In his Justice, for example, Vasari empowered Cardinal Farnese with two types of impartial governing powers: temporal and divine, since the Farnese Justice represents supreme Justice embodying the cardinal virtues of Fortitude, Temperance and Charity.
In having a civic and humanistic court in Rome as well as his diplomatic papal roles, the cardinal’s temporal powers are implied in the assimilation of the image of Justice as Roma or Fortuna, the patron goddess of Rome, who guides the cardinal to have fair judgement when conducting the affairs of the Christian city and Christianity. Vasari portrays the cardinal’s divine power by associating Justice with another aspect of Roma or Fortuna: her personification of the goddess of Peace as Justice subjugates and enchains treachery and all the vices. Here Vasari alludes to the theme of Peace Burning the Arms, anticipating a later depiction on this theme for Cardinal Farnese in 1545, in the Sala dei Cento Giorni of the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome (Fig. 11).
In the second association of the image of Justice with the goddess of Justice, there is an allusion to the cardinal’s persona as well as to his ancestor, Pope Paul III, whose spiritual and supreme role in Rome as vicar of Christ on earth made him responsible for ruling wisely as a religious leader of the Christian world. Thus Vasari’s Farnese Justice reveals the Farnese cardinal’s dynasty of moral justice and peaceful governance, a Mannerist conceit of shalom.
* “From now on, you must be the householder and helmsman of your family after me”. With these words, Pope Paul III reminded his grandson, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, to provide moral guidance to his family. Carlo Capasso, Paolo III (1534–1549), 2 vols., Principato, Messina, 1924, 1:77.
** This essay was presented at the International Conference on Arts and Politics at the Università di Aldo Moro in Bari, Italy, on November 4, 2015. I am grateful to Dr. Emilie Passignat of Florence for providing me with Vasari’s original letters, here included.
 Helge Gamrath, Farnese: Pomp, Power and Politics in Renaissance Italy, Bretschneider, Rome, 2007; and Lucia Fornari Schianchi and Nicolo Spinosa (eds.), I Farnese: Arte e Collezionismo, Electa, Milan, 1995.
 Liana De Girolami Cheney, “Giorgio Vasari’s Sala dei Cento Giorni: A Farnese Celebration”, Exploration in Renaissance Culture, 21 (1995), pp. 121–151, repr. in Anniversary Issue of ERC, 40 (Summer and Winter, 2014), pp. 96–124; and Stefano Pierguidi, “Sulla Fortuna della ‘Giustizia’ e della ‘Pazienza’ di Vasari”, Mitteilungen des Kunshistorisches Institut in Florenz, 52, 3/4 (2007), pp. 576–592.
 Sonia Maffei, ed., Paolo Giovio, Scritti D’Arte, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, 1999, pp. 302–303, for a letter of January 20, 1543 from Giovio to Cardinal Farnese, praising the “cartoncello con la Giustizia” (“preparatory drawing with Justice”) of Vasari; and A. Ronchini, “Giorgio Vasari alla Corte del Cardinal Farnese”, Atti e Memorie delle RR. Deputazioni di Storia patria per le Provincie Modenesi e Parmensi, 2 (1864), p. 124.
 Alessandro del Vita, Il Carteggio di Giorgio Vasari, Zelli, Arezzo, 1923, p. 41, for the description of Ricordo No. 40 and payment of 200 scudi for this commission and for the reference in Vasari’s autobiography, Giorgio Vasari, Le Vite dei più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori nelle redazioni del l550, l568, ed. Rosanna Bettarini and Paola Barocchi, 6 vols., Sansoni and S.P.E.S., Florence, 1976–1996, 6:383.
 Ronchini, op. cit., pp. 121–123; and Karl Frey, Der Literarische Nachlass Giorgio Vasari, 2 vols., Georg Müller, Munich, 1923, 1:121–122. Giorgio Vasari in Roma to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in Castro.1543, gennaio, 20. Letter L:
Illustrissimo Monsignore, mio patron sempre onorandissimo,
… Il disegno, che per il quadro mi chiedesti, prigione in un guluppo legato Vi si manda; e l’invenzione è questa: le Pandette di Iustiniano, legge dai moderni viventi osservata per rigore di lei, son fondamento di ASTREA, la quale, nuda dal mezzo in su, vedretela quasi spogliata di tutte le passioni, che possono offendere chi giudica; et ha sette catene alla cintura, quali sette abominevol vizii sono da essa in prigionia sostenuti; l’uno è la Corruzione, che è quello che con aspetto grave sta torcendosi, riguardando a quelle catene, danari, gioie, dominii, et cetera; ma la seconda, da lui a presso, è la Ignoranzia, accompagnata da l’asino; soprali v’è la Crudeltà, volta con la faccia in là, non guardando nessuno. Soprali alla ben guidata Iustizia, vi è a man di lei dritta lo struzzo, il quale, per esser aereo e terrestre, sì come essa è umana e divina, smaltisce il ferro, sì come si purga per lei ogni ignominia, et ha le ali parissime, e giusti, carattere posto per la Giustizia dalli Egizii nelle [e] piramide. Vero è, che le XII tavole di Romulo, antico padre di religione, sono dalla destra di lei abbracciate, insieme tenute con il dominio sceptro. Sopravi l’ipopotomo, animale che ammazza la madre et il padre e i parenti senza nessun riguardo, simile al giusto iudice, che al proximo non perdona. Li altri quattro vizii, che mancono, son là il Tradimento et il Timore, ascosoli doppo, e la Bugia e la Maledicenzia, insieme conculcati dalla Verità; che, sendo presentata dal Tempo, padre di lei, dona le semplici colombe per tributo, e la Iustizia la premia d’una corona di quercia, fortezza del suo animo. E, perché le altre leggi non paia che mi sieno uscite di mente, in su quel mondo sono le tavole di Mosè, et in mezzo duoi libri, le Civili e le Canoniche Instituzioni; ma sopra quei putti l’arme ancora, talché i fasci dei dittatori, che sono fra le gambe dei vizii, veramente dimostrano, che in servizio di loro si sono operati …
Di Roma, il giorno XX di gennaro MDXLIII.
Perpetuo servitore, Giorgio Vasari, pittor aretino.
Indirizzo: Al reverendissimo et illustrissimo mon signore, il signor cardinale Farnese, suo patrone osservandissimo, a Castro.
 Alessandro del Vita, Le Ricordanze di Giorgio Vasari, R. Istituto Archeologico e Storia dell’Arte, Rome, 1938, p. 41; and Frey, op. cit., 1:121–22.
 Michael Jaffé, The Devonshire Collection of Italian Drawings: Tuscan and Umbrian Drawings, Phaidon, London, 1994, p. 137.
 Letter from Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in Corneto to Giorgio Vasari in Roma.1543, gennaio, 24. Arezzo, Archivio Vasariano, MS 8, Rasponi Spinelli 42, lett. 46.
Amatissimo messer Giorgio.
Con molto mio piacere ho ricevuto e visto più di una volta il disegno, che mi avete mandato insieme con l’interpretazione, quale mi è stata carissima, vedendoVi uscire delle invenzioni ordinarie, come solete far Voi; et invero, che mi è piaciuta così la novità dell’istoria come la bellezza delle figure, sicome al ritorno mio, che sarà presto, ne parleremo più a lungo con dar principio a qualche bella impresa. E a Voi mi offero.
Da Corneto, alli 24 di gennaio MDXLIII.
Vostro. Cardinale Farnese.
Indirizzo: Al magnifico messer Giorgio aretino, pittore.
Nota del segretario del Cardinale: [Giorgio] pittor.
 Frey, op. cit., 1:125, Letter dated January 24, 1543.
 Liana De Girolami Cheney, “Giorgio Vasari’s Astraea: A Symbol of Justice”, Visual Resources, 19, 4 (2003), special issue: Describing Depictions vs. Depicting Descriptions, Guest Editor: Jan L. de Jong, pp. 283–305.
 Harris Franklin Rall, http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/justice/.
 Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, trans. H. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library, London, 1934, Book V.10.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (IIa, IIae, Q XXIIIa.5), ed. and trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Benziger Brothers, Cincinnati, 1947; Macrobius’ Commentary on Cicero’s Somnium scipionis, ed. William Harris Stahl, Columbia University Press, New York, 1990; and Petrarch’s Africa, ed. Wilfred P. Mustard, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1921, are texts on the concept of justice. These writers claim that justice is a primary virtue that ought to accompany the life of a hero.
 Liana De Girolami Cheney, Giorgio Vasari: Artistic and Emblematic Manifestations, New Academia, Washington, D.C., 2011, pp. 9–300.
 Giovanni Pierio Valeriano, I Heroglifici overo Commentatrii delle occulte significtioni de gl’Egittij & altre Nationi, Battista Combi, Venice, 1556, Italian version of the Latin Hierogliphica by Valeriano, p. 316. Valeriano interpreted Pliny’s and Horapollo’s writings on the ostrich. The Hieroglyphics of Horapollo, trans. by George Boas, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1993, entry II, 118, p. 98, title of the hieroglyph: “A Man who Distributes Justice Equality to All”. Explanatory note: “When they wish to indicate a man who distributes justice equally to all, they draw an ostrich-wing. For the ostrich has its wings more equally balanced than any other bird”. And Horapollo, Hieroglyphica, ed. Gonzáles de Zárate and García Sole, AKAL, Barcelona, 1991, pp. 409–410, for Pliny’s explanation of the plumes’ signification of Justice and Horapollo’s and Valeriano’s commentaries.
 In the Renaissance, artists decorated military armour and composed drawings of helmets, e.g., Leonardo da Vinci’s Portrait of a Warrior, 1472, British Museum, London; Giulio Clovio’s Head of Minerva, 1530, Royal Collection Trust, London; Francesco Salviati’s Helmet, a fanciful drawing, 1543 at the Uffizi, Florence; and Vasari’s painting of Joshua in the Conception of Our Lady, 1540, SS. Apostoli, Florence.
 Robert E. Bell, Women of Classical Mythology, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1991, pp. 29–31 for the origin of the Amazons and pp. 308–309 for the connection of Minerva with Roman mythology.
 Hans Biedermann, Dictionary of Symbolism: Cultural Icons and Meaning Behind Them, trans. James Hulbert, Meridian, New York, 1994, pp. 248–249, with an illustration of an ostrich as eater of horseshoes, from J. Boschius’ Symbolographia, sive de arte symbolica sermones septem, Dillengen, Ausburg, 1701–1702.
 Paolo Giovio, Le sententiose imprese, Guillaume Roillé, Lyon, 1561, Biblioteca Comunale dell’Archiginnasio, 18 (Q.II.18), p. 115.
 Frey, op. cit., 1:122.
 It is unclear what source Vasari employed, if any at all, to symbolize the hippopotamus in connection with justice, since Pliny, Horapollo and Valeriano consider this animal to be a symbol of impiety and violence against justice. Horapollo, op. cit., pp. 154–156.
 Horapollo, op. cit., p. 358.
 During the Renaissance, the bull was a well-known symbol of moral strength employed by Popes Innocent III (1455–1458) and, in particular, Alexander VI (1492–1503). L. Volkmann, “Hieroglyphic und Emblematic bei Giorgio Vasari”, in Werden und Wirken ein Festgruss Karl W. Hiersemann zugesandt, K. F. Koehler, Leipzig, 1924, pp. 407–409.
 Horapollo, op. cit., p. 128.
 Valeriano, op. cit.; and Guy de Tervarent, Attributs et Symboles dans L’Art Profane, Droz, Geneva, 1997, p. 181.
 Giovio, op. cit. p. 78. In composing this impresa for the French family Flischi or Fieschi, Giovio employed Pliny’s Natural History X.89–91 as a source for the symbolism of two birds who are able to survive the adversity of time: temporal measurement as well as temporality.
 Vasari had painted an image of Veritas in which Time rescues Innocence or Truth from Vicissitudes. Raymond B. Waddington, “A Satirist’s Impresa: The Medals of Pietro Aretino”, Renaissance Quarterly, 47 (Winter 1989), p. 673.
 Frey, op. cit., 1:121.
 Valeriano, op. cit., p. 149, as a symbol of human ignorance as well as sloth. Horapollo, op. cit., pp. 216–228.
 Cesare Ripa, Iconologia, Editori Associati, Milan, 1993, reprint of the 1618 Paduan edition, pp. 5–7.
 Andrea Alciato, Emblematum libellus, Aldus, Venice, 1546, Emblem 71, Envy. “A filthy woman chewing the flesh of vipers, whose eyes give her pain, who gnaws her own heart, in the grip of emaciation and pallor, carrying prickly sticks in her hand – thus is Envy depicted”. This description and the depiction of the House of Envy are taken from Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.760ff., in Allen Mandelbaum, The Metamorphoses of Ovid, Harcourt Brace, New York, 1995.
 Alciato, op. cit.; and Alciato Emblemas, ed. Santiago Sebastiàn, AKAL, Barcelona, 1993, for emblems on vices, such as Emblem 48, “In victoriam dolo partam” (“Victory achieved through falsehood”); Emblem 49 “In Fraudulento” (“On Fraudulence”) on Falsehood; Emblem 50 “Dolus in suos” (“Fraudulents against themselves”) on Treason; and Emblem 51 “Maledicentia” (“Slander”) on Slander.
 Liana De Girolami Cheney, “Giorgio Vasari’s Allegory of Avarice or Allegory of the Seven Deadly Sins”, SECAC Journal (Spring 2002), 1–15.
 Horapollo, op. cit., p. 567, for a description of the boar as a symbol of gluttony and luxury, and Pliny’s consideration of the boar as a symbol of injustice.
 Jennifer O’Reilly, Studies in the Iconography of the Virtues and Vices, Garland Publishing, New York, 1988, pp. 1–2, on Prudentius’ Pyschomachia (early eleventh century, MS Voss. Lat. Oct. 15, Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit, Leiden).
List of Illustrations and Credits
Fig.1. Giorgio Vasari, Farnese Justice, 1543, Capodimonte Museum, Naples (Inv. 84214).
Photo credit: Alinari/Art Resource, NY (ART333892).
Fig. 2. Giorgio Vasari, Farnese Justice, 1543, drawing, Inv. 0177.
Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth, UK.
Photo credit: Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth, UK.
Fig. 3. Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Justice, Allegory of Good Government,
det., 1340, fresco. Palazzo Pubblico, Siena.
Photo credit: author
Fig. 4. Michelangelo, Moses, 1513, marble. San Pietro di Vincoli, Rome.
Photo credit: author
Fig. 5. Bernard van Orley, Romulus Given the Laws to the Romans, 1524, drawing,
pen and wash. Staatliche Graphisce Sammlung München.
Photo credit: Public Domain. Wikimedia.org.
Fig. 6. Apotheosis of Antoninus Pius and Faustina
at the base of the column of Antoninus Pius, 161, marble. Rome.
Photo credit: author
Fig. 7. Vincenzo Cartari, Fortuna, engraving from Imagine degli Dei de Gl’Antichi. [Venice] 1576 reissued in 1647 [Nuova Stile Regina, Genoa], p. 238.
Photo credit: author
Fig. 8. Paolo Giovio, Spiritus durissima coquit, impresa for Girolamo Mattei Romano, [Guglielmo Roviglio, Lyon], 1559 Dialogo delle’imprese military et amorose di Monsignor Giovio, p. 82.
Photo credit: author
Fig. 9. Paolo Giovio, Nous savons bien le temps, impresa for the French family Flischi or Fieschi. [Guglielmo Roviglio, Lyon], 1559 Dialogo delle’imprese military et amorose di Monsignor Giovio, p. 78.
Photo credit: author
Fig. 10. Giorgio Vasari, Allegory of Avarice or The Allegory of the Seven Deadly Sins, 1540, drawing, Inv 0010. Devonshire Collection in Chatsworth, UK.
Photo credit: Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth, UK.
Fig. 11. Giorgio Vasari, Peace Between Charles V and Francis I, det.,
1546, fresco. Palazzo della Cancelleria, Rome.
Photo credit: author