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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 was probably inspired by Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia, an illustrated dictionary in which ideas were represented through images of people. The French edition was published in 1644, about five years before the artist began his series.
Allegory of Grammar
Oil on canvas
H 101.9 x W 112.2 cm
Bequeathed by Francis Falconer Madan, 1961