Allegory on Science. Minerva and Cronus protect Science against Envy and Ignorance
History of the painting
Jacob Jordaens painted Allegory of Science when he was about 24 years old. It was immediately thought that the painting portrays an absurd and random compilation of people. But it is actually an allegory, i.e. a portrayal of an abstract concept or an idea. Our time may have difficulty interpreting allegories from the 1600s because they often make use of an esoteric coded language in the form of personifications and antique deities.
In the right side of the painting is the goddess Minerva, the protector of the arts and sciences. She can be identified from her shield and is wearing armour and a breastplate.
She is trampling over Ignorance, a man with dog ears whilst at the same time holding Envy at bay with her shield. Envy attacks Minerva with a blazing torch, whilst the head of serpents twists around her unsightly countenance.
In the paintings middle field there is a scholar at a table, measuring a globe with a compass. He is the personification of Science, Astrology, or perhaps Cartography or Geography. Three gods surround him and protect him: Fama, the goddess of fame with a laurel wreath, Fortuna, goddess of fortune, who scatters gold, and Chronos, the winged Father Time with treasures from the sea (a conch with pearls and coral) and the earth (a wreath of wheat and fruits). At the shoulder of Science stands a woman dressed in Hercules’ lion skin; she may be considered the personification of Strength.
The meaning of Jordaens' allegory may overall be interpreted as follows: Minerva protects Science, and all the fame and wealth that follows with it, from Envy and Ignorance.
Written by Eva de la Fuente Pedersen.
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