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Before us is a bizarre allegory. The painter borrowed the theme from the poem of the famous Roman poet. Before us is the first picture. Raphael portrays a hero who needs to make the right choice. He needs to decide which is more important: pleasure or virtue
We see that the knight is sleeping a good night under a laurel tree. It divides the picture into two parts. On each side, the artist depicts a woman. On the left side of the canvas before us appears a vivid personification of true virtue. In her hands are traditional objects: a constant book and a sharp sword. On the right side of the canvas we see the personification of true Pleasure. She holds out a flower to the knight, which is a true symbol of love.
The artist sought to fill this work with a very deep meaning: the knight must balance both of these principles in his life.
The painter manages to convey the differences in the characters of women with the help of their appearance and certain clothes. We see how strictly dressed Virtue is. Her head is covered. On the figure of Pleasure, a fashionable dress of elegant style flaunts. Her hair is playfully loose and coquettishly decorated with a magnificent flower and luxurious beads.
Virtue proposed a difficult path. We see it against a background of hills and a castle with peaked peaks. You can get into it through the bridge. Enjoyment, on the contrary, is depicted by an incredibly soft landscape leading directly to a wonderful lake, lit by the sun.
We do not feel that these two women are competing with each other. The artist shows that Virtue and Pleasure have absolutely equal chances. We don’t feel that the vision becomes a sharp moral choice for the hero. In an ideal knight all these qualities should be combined.
At first, Raphael wanted to portray Pleasure as a seducer. This can only be seen in the sketch. But on the canvas she is dressed modestly enough. She is a reward to the real knight.