An allegory of Life
This compelling and enigmatic image has elicited many explanations of its content, none of which have entirely resolved its meaning. An elderly man at left—possibly a philosopher—leans against a riverside rock, his hand outstretched to a crowned woman who strides toward him at right. In the most general terms, this scene is understood as an allegory with a hopeful message: the man who has poorly guided the boat of his own existence is saved by the woman representing reason. The print’s large size, numerous details, and intertwined elements contribute to a visual puzzle that requires great concentration to understand. This challenge would have appealed to an educated audience in the sixteenth century.
Giorgio Ghisi (Italian, Mantua ca. 1520–1582 Mantua)