Allegory of Vice

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Etienne Picart (1632-1721) after a painting by Correggio (ca. 1489-1534), Allegory of Vice, 1676. Engraving. Graphic Arts French prints GC077.

The French engraver Étienne Picart (also known as Picart Romanus or Stephanus Picart) spent his early years in Rome engraving the Italian masters before settling in Paris. He opened a studio on the Rue St Jacques, au Buste de Monseigneur, engraving prints and book illustrations. In 1710, Picart and his son Bernard emigrated to the Netherlands where he continued to print until his death at the age of eighty-nine.

Explanations of this allegory describe a naked man, his hands tied behind him, being tormented by three naked women with serpents in their hair. Personally, I’m not sure he looks tormented. In the center foreground, a small boy tempts us with a bunch of grapes. The inscription reads in part: Image de l’homme sensuel, enchante par la volupte, lie par la mauvaise habitude, et tourmente par la synderese (The image of the sensual man, enchanted by lust, bound by bad habit, and tormented by conscience).