For such a beautiful piece with such soft lighting and rich color, Salvator Rosa’s Allegory of Fortune hardly seems like something created out of anger. A beautiful woman, wrapped in a golden cloth is shown feeding an assortment of animals. There is little in the painting that evokes the sort of emotion in the viewer that Rosa put into the painting; only after applying knowledge of symbolism does the viewer see Rosa’s angry, shaking fist.
Completed in 1659, Allegory of Fortune falls into the Baroque period of art when the Catholic church was eagerly acquiring gritty new art by the masses. The chief goal of every aspiring artist in Italy and Spain was to receive acknowledgement and patronage from the Pope. Competition for Papal patronage was fierce, and some artists did not take rejection quietly; Rosa was one of these artists.
In Rosa’s painting, the womanly manifestation of Fortune is the central figure. In her arms she carries a large, overturned cornucopia, an accusation of excessive and careless spending. The Lady Fortune is also depicted without her typical blindfold, an intentional display of her full awareness towards her recklessness. The barnyard animals around her feet, symbolize the various undeserving or inferior minded individuals that did receive papal commissions, and are shown crushing symbols of education, wisdom and the arts. In addition, Rosa included a book with his own monogram on it as well as a trampled rose signifying his name. A donkey with a cardinals red cloak is shown in the foreground, hiding the owl of wisdom in its shadow. (Getty plaque) Two bulls are included in the painting, possibly linking Pope Alexander VII to the last Pope to bear the name Alexander, born Rodrigo Borgia. It could be that Rosa intentionally includes the Borgia bulls amongst the animals to compare the current pope to Borgia corruption.
Rosa was nearly arrested for the statement made in Allegory of Fortune, which he...