Winter weather, associated with the struggle of high art against competition from lowlife artists. Etching by P. Testa, 1641.

  • Testa, Pietro, 1611-1650.
  • Pictures

About this work


On the left, features of winter weather. In the sky, Selene sits on the crescent moon, and icy rain falls down from a bucket, blown down by the winds. Below, personifications of clouds drink water from a bowl held up by river gods or tritons. Lower left, the sun sinks out of view, and two naked men gather round a fire

On the right, a winged man is pulled down by a personification of envy, but pulled upwards by a personification of virtue, who reaches for a laurel wreath with which to crown him. Above, a putto clutches at a blank scroll (to be inscribed with the man's virtues?). A person sleeping on the ground next to Envy may be a personification of sloth or drunkenness. The winged man is interpreted by Bartsch as Time (though he has no scythe or hourglass), by Cropper (p. 260) as "the virtuous ingegno of the true artist", i.e. Pietro Testa himself (though he does not resemble Testa as shown in his self-portrait)

In the centre, monkeys try to climb a trophy pole hung with a jug of wine and some food. A discarded palette lies on the ground next to them. According to Cropper, they refer to artists who pursue worldly rewards in preference to virtue, described by Testa in a manuscript as "scimie sporche, e ridicole della natura" (dirty and ridiculous apes of nature), alluding to the drunken Bamboccianti (Cropper, op. cit., p. 271)


Si stampano in Roma (alla Pace ; all'insegna di Parigi) : per Giovan Jacomo Rossi, [1641?]

Physical description

1 print : etching ; platemark 49.7 x 71.3 cm


PetrusTesta pinxit et sculpsit 1641

References note

Adam Bartsch, Le peintre graveur, Vienna 1820, vol. XX, p. 228-229, no. 39 ("La Lune prenant la place du Soleil qui se précipite dans la mer, et les divinités des nuées buvant avec avidité les eaux des fleuves qu'ils répandent ensuitesur la terre, où deux hommes se chauffent auprès du feu; ce qui fait conjecturer que P. Testa a eu dessein d'exprimer dans cette pièce la saison de l'Hiver. II a représenté du côté droit la Vertu qui avec l'aide duTemps se débarrasse d'entre les bras de l'Envie, pour aller cueillir la couronne de l'immortalité. On lit à la droite d'en bas: PetrusTesta pinxit et sculpsit 1651 [sic].")
Rudolf and Margot Wittkower, Born under Saturn, London 1963, pp. 142-143 and pl. 36 ("This enigmatic design is usually, but wrongly, called an Allegory of Winter")
Elizabeth Cropper, 'Virtue's wintry reward: Pietro Testa's etchings of the seasons', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 1974, 37: 249-279


Wellcome Collection 3162937i


Where to find it

  • LocationStatusAccess
    Closed stores

Permanent link