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Flavia De Nicola
Perth Medieval and Renaissance Group, Inc. 2023 Conference "Fate and Fortune", The University of Western Australia (online), 21 October 2023
Publication year: 2023


EN – In classical and Renaissance art and literature, the iconography of the winged horse embodies contrasting meanings, from Pegasus’s virtuous triumph of the spirit, in opposition to the Platonic notion of uncontrollable libido and sensory dissatisfaction, to the symbol of elusive Fortune and hence Misfortune, driven by the perception of the goddess Fortune’s nature as volatile, irrational, and fleeting. This paper delves into the deep interconnection between visual arts and literary sources, examining the various interpretations of the winged horse image in humanistic thought and its connection with the concepts of Fate, Fortune, Virtus, and Wisdom, as articulated by Francesco Petrarca, Leon Battista Alberti, Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Andrea Alciati, Achille Bocchi, and Andrea Fulvio. The analysis extends to Renaissance visual representations, with a focus on medals, paintings, and engravings, such as the sixth woodcut from the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, The Cardinal Virtues by Raffaello Sanzio in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Parnassus by Baldassarre Peruzzi at Villa Farnesina, and Hercules at the Crossroads by Annibale Carracci. Finally, this reflection highlights the significance of the winged horse as a symbol of Fortune’s unreliability and transience, contrasting it with enduring Wisdom, which can overcome any misfortunate hardship. This juxtaposition reveals the ultimate purpose of Virtue and the pursuit of knowledge as the final aim of the Renaissance concept.


  • Iconography;
  • Renaissance Rome;
  • Classical Reception Studies;
  • Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.