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This painting, titled Allegory of the Four Parts of the World, was created by Francesco Solimena, an artist from Naples, Italy. An allegory uses people or objects to represent ideas, such as the seasons, senses,

virtues (good traits), vices (bad traits), and the arts. For example, the idea of time was sometimes pictured as an old man with a lyre and wings. Allegories often illustrate religious, political, or civic ideas.        

Solimena was famous for his large altarpieces and scenes of history during the Baroque period of the17th century, or 1600s. Many Italian artists of the Catholic Reformation used the Baroque style as a way to show religious devotion and glorify the virtues of the Catholic Church. For example, here the four different geographic areas of the world known in Europe at this time are represented by the four main figures in the painting. The seated figure on the top right, holding the pope’s special crown and a pair of keys, is the figure of Europe. Asia, holding incense, is seated directly below Europe. Africa, positioned on the bottom left of the painting, is represented as a nude man with a lion near him. On the left of the painting, America, in the shadows and a bit smaller than the rest, wears a feathered headdress and holds a bundle of wheat. All of the figures are present to witness the keys and Pope’s headdress, symbols of the Catholic Church, being lifted into Heaven by little angels. The Greek God Apollo makes an appearance in this painting, driving his chariot across the sky.

The theatrical poses and dramatic gestures of these figures as well as the twisting, circular composition are typical of paintings in the Baroque style.

Images, like this allegory showing a message of world unity, are found all over the city of Rome in church paintings and sculptural fountains. Dozens of churches, filled with similar religious images in the Baroque style, were built in Rome during the 17th century.