Andrea Sacchi (Rome 1599 – Rome 1661)
Allegory of Divine Wisdom


Fresco, ceiling of room 16

Palazzo Barberini


The fresco celebrates Divine Wisdom, a theme of great political and encomiastic importance. The complex iconography derives from the Book of Wisdom in the Old Testament, a text attributed to King Solomon, the model of the wise and enlightened king assisted by divine wisdom, whom Urban VIII likens himself to.

The personification of Divine Wisdom is seated on a throne at the center of knowledge. She is surrounded by eleven female figures embodying her divine attributes: on the left, Nobility (Ariadne’s crown), Eternity (the serpent biting its tail), Sweetness (the lyre), Divinity (the triangle), Justice (the scales), Strength (the club) Beneficence (the ear of wheat); on the right, Holiness (the cross and flaming altar), Purity (the swan), Perspicacity (the eagle) and Beauty (Coma Berenices or Berenices’ Hair). Above, amid the clouds, two winged youths appear, associated with the lion and hare, symbols of the love and fear of God.

Each virtue identifies a constellation, recording the astral conjunction that took place on the night between August 5 and 6, 1623, on the election of Pope Barberini. The frescoed vault was intended as a protective talisman for the family’s destiny. Order, symmetry and pastel tones relate the fresco to the classicist strand of Baroque painting, of which Andrea Sacchi was one of the leading exponents.