The original purpose of the panel is not known. It is likely that it was for personal devotional use. The base is incomplete, which suggests that it may have been part of a larger structure, such as a funerary monument. The main inscription warns the viewer of the human soul’s vulnerability to the vanities and dangers of the world. The central figure wears classical military attire, and much of the imagery is martial, suggesting that the panel could have been made for a soldier. The figure is being invested with a shield of Christian Virtues by an angel.
British School: An Allegory of Man
570 x 514 mm
Oil paint on canvas
Date of work
1596 or after
Presented by the Patrons of British Art 1990
The date and painter of this work is a mystery. It may date from about 1570, as the lady wears the fashion of that time. It bears similarities to another rare English religious painting on panel by Hans Eworth. And has been tentatively attributed to him. However, in 1997, analysis taken out by Dr Peter Klein seems to show that the earliest possible date it could have been painted is about 1596.