Coldrerio (Ticino, now Switzerland), 1612 – Rome, 1666
Allegory of Geography
Oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 29 3/8 in (100 x 74.7 cm)
Pier Francesco Mola depicts a personification of Geography, basing himself in part on the iconographic tradition established by Cesare Ripa in his Iconologia (Rome, 1593, with multiple revisions; the following translation is from the London edition of 1709): “an old Dame, in earth-colour’d garment; a terrestrial Globe at her Foot; the Compasses in her right Hand, wherewith she measures the said Globe, and a geometrical Square in her left”. In this is re-interpretation of the subject, the turbaned allegorical figure is not so aged, and holds a piece of paper in her left hand; she uses the compass to measure an area at the top of the globe in what is a generic representation of the Northern hemisphere. A grand piece of drapery at left is drawn back to reveal a crepuscular sky. Red, ochre and bronze contrast with the brilliant, fluently-applied white of the figure’s chemise and the pearls of her clasp.
The attribution to Mola is confirmed by Erich Schleier, who dates the painting to 1647/1649, shortly after the artist’s return to Rome from Bologna and Venice – both sources of inspiration for the painterly handling we see here. Schleier compares our canvas with Mola’s Vision of Saint Dominic at Soriano (Rome, Santi Domenico e Sisto, Costaguti Chapel, c. 1648), and notes the influence of Guercino in his mature, classicizing phase. The attribution and dating are also confirmed by Francesco Petrucci, who will include this Allegory in his forthcoming monograph on the artist.