Allegory Power Hetalia

Group collage by rainy_takako

Allegory of Planets and Continents by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

The stairwell at the New Residenz palace in Würzburg

This picture, Tiepolo’s largest and most dazzling oil sketch, shows Apollo about to embark on his daily course across the sky. Deities around the sun god symbolize the planets, and allegorical figures on the cornice represent the four continents.

Tiepolo presented this preliminary sketch to Carl Philipp von Greiffenklau, the prince-bishop of Würzburg, on April 20, 1752, as his proposal for the decoration of the vast staircase ceiling of the Residenz, often considered the artist’s greatest achievement.


Modern iconography of the continents began to the established in the sixteenth century, drawing on antique precedents and reports of travelers. By Tiepolo’s time the subject was so popular in all the arts that the range of accepted images was large. For a painter in the dual tradition of allegorical and monumental decoration, however, that range included a customary iconography with predominant motifs taken from the text and illustrations of Cesare Ripa’s handbook of allegorical figures, the Iconologia. Ripa’s book had long since standardized the use of female personnification accompanied by indigenous animals and local artifacts; in additio, widely distributed engravings and other sources had contributed some conventions like the mounted positions of the personifications.

Allegory, Fact, and Meaning in Giambattista Tiepolo’s Four Continents in Würzburg, Mark Ashton, The Art Bulletin, Vol. 60, No. 1 (Mar, 1978), pp. 109-125


Allegory is a form of extended metaphor, in which objects, persons, and actions in a narrative, are equated with the meanings that lie outside the narrative itself. The underlying meaning has moral, social, religious, or political significance, and characters are often personifications of abstract ideas as charity, greed, or envy. Thus an allegory is a story with two meanings, a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning.

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