In this impressive allegorical scene, a personification of Charity sits in a highly stylized setting, luxuriously clothed and bejeweled, surrounded by three golden-haired children and a small dog in the lower right. Visual parallels are found throughout the oeuvre of Jan Massys, a mid-sixteenth century artist from Antwerp whose works display a particular interest in rendering the female form in large scale. In subject, this canvas relates to Massys' two iterations of Caritas
one in a private collection and the other in the Palazzo Bianco, Genoa, the latter of which also corresponds in the types of cherub-like figures here.1
The facial type of the central figure in the present work relates to two separate renderings of Judith by Massys, one in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the other in the Louvre.2
1. The former: oil on panel, 147 by 112.5 cm., most recently sold, London, Sotheby's, 5 December 2012, lot 3, for £445,250; the latter: oil on panel, 126 by 93 cm., inv. no. 285. See L. Buijnsters-Smets, Jan Massys een Antwerps schilder uit de zestiende eeuw, Zwolle 1995, pp. 180-3, cat. nos. 26-27, reproduced in color pp. 131-132.
2. The former: oil on panel, 101 by 74.5 cm., inv. no. 12.1048; the latter: oil on panel, 162 by 197 cm., inv. no. 1446. See ibid., p. 172, cat. no. 18, reproduced and pp. 198-199, cat. no. 38, reproduced.