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Allegory of Grammar

Photo credit: The National Gallery, London

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This painting is one of a series depicting the Seven Liberal Arts, which represent disciplines associated with learning and language – grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy – as half-length figures of women. Grammar is shown as a woman watering plants, conveying the idea that young minds need encouragement to develop and grow. The Latin inscription on the scroll can be translated as ‘A meaningful and literate word spoken in the correct manner’. La Hyre’s figure imitates classical sculpture: her drapery appears solid and is arranged in crisp, overlapping folds. Further references to the classical age can be seen in the column and ornate urn. La Hyre was probably inspired by Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia, an illustrated dictionary in which ideas were represented through images of people.

The National Gallery, London



Allegory of Grammar




Oil on canvas


H 101.9 x W 112.2 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bequeathed by Francis Falconer Madan, 1961

Work type



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Normally on display at

The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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