Tondo with Justice Presiding over the Three Cardinal and Three Theological Virtues
The inscription are the words of Justinian: "She gives justice to all."
The Theological and Cardinal Virtues Fresco
The Virtues (detail)
Cardinal and Theological Virtues
"Three classical cardinal virtues (Fortitude, Prudence and Temperance) are attended by five putti, three of whom depict the theological virtues of Charity, Hope, and Faith.
"On the left, Raphael painted Fortitude. Armor-clad, she caresses a lion with her left hand while grasping a sapling of black oak with her right.The oak tree symbolizes strength and alludes to the Della Rovere family to which Pope Julius II belonged. A putto representing Charity harvests acorns from the oak branch.Fortitude's seated posture and the folds of her clothing are copied directly from a modello Raphael had seen of Michelangelo's Moses.
"Temperance sits on the right. She holds the bridle of restraint and is accompanied by a putto portraying Faith who points upward to heaven with his right hand.
"Prominently seated in the center is Prudence. On her breast is an effigy of a winged Gorgon to ward off deceit and fraud. Janus-like, her head has two faces shown in profile. Her youthful feminine face looks forward into a mirror. This is an allegory of wisdom and knowledge of the present. The backward-facing visage of the old man peers into a past for sound judgment predicated on experience. His view is enhanced by the flaming torch held by a putto depicting Hope...
Another interpretation of the figure of Prudence is that the woman represents not only Prudence but Wisdom, one of the cardinal virtues as defined by Plato. If that is the case, then the mirror represents self-knowledge.
Traditionally, prudence is often represented with a mirror and a serpent.In the context of the Stanza, however, the serpent might be misinterpreted as an image of Satan. So in this fresco, the snake is transformed into a serpentine beacon of flame that enlightens the backward-facing male head of Prudence. The restraining bridle of Temperance overlays the flame-bearer, its coils mirroring the shape of the torch. The gorgon head pictured on the front of reminds the viewer of the tory of Perseus, who slew the monsster, the attached her head to his own shield to defeat his enemies by appropriating the power of evil.
"The other two frescoes found lower on the wall also portray scenes concerning the law. To the left of the window is a fresco designed by Raphael but executed by his studio. It depicts the Emperor Justinian receiving the civil code known as the Pandects of the Corpus Juris Civilis from Tribonian. To the right of the window, Pope Gregory IX (as portrayed by Julius II) receives the code of canon law known as the Decretals from Raymond of Penyafort."