Salvator Rosa, The Allegory of Fortune, 1659

Although it may not look like a controversial image today, this painting nearly had Rosa jailed and ex-communicated from the church in 1659 when it was shown at the Pantheon in Rome. Here Fortuna (the goddess of fortune and luck) dumps gold coins, jewelry, and precious stones from her cornucopia onto ignoble animals, such as a pig and an ass (the donkey is a symbol of the pope and it wears a cardinal’s red and gold cape). The owl, a symbol of wisdom, is obscured under the shadow of the ass. Underfoot the animals trample symbols of education and the arts such as books, a painter’s palette, and brushes. The pig tramples a rose, symbolizing Rosa himself, in reference to the fact that he had lost papal patronage. The only thing that saved Rosa from jail was the intervention of the pope’s brother, who urged the pope to spare Rosa.

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