Image credit: Manchester Art Gallery

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This is a sketch for a ceiling design, one of a set of three in the collection of Manchester Art Gallery. The building for which the designs were made has not been identified, but it seems likely that there was once a fourth design, as each of Manchester’s three works probably represents one of the cardinal virtues. These are the fundamental good qualities identified from ancient Greek philosophy onwards as prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice. Temperance is Manchester’s missing virtue. Together with its two companions, this sketch had been thought of as being by James Thornhill (1635–1734) since 1964, when it was acquired by the gallery. This attribution was questionable, as the work displays none of the smooth pictorial qualities that characterised English decorative painting in Thornhill’s time.

Manchester Art Gallery







oil on canvas


H 24.5 x W 48.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

purchased from Dr A. Scharf, 1964

Work type



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Normally on display at

Manchester Art Gallery

Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester M2 3JL England

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