The Four Cardinal Virtues
The four cardinal virtues, Fortitude/ Courage, Temperance, Prudence and Justice, are four virtues of mind and character in classical philosophy, Christian theology and can be found within Greek mythology, the Tarot and the practice of Freemasonry. They are seen as the basic virtues required for a virtuous life and are most often depicted as women bearing different objects to represent their message. Even today, the virtues can be found within the threads of our daily lives such as the figure of Lady Justice to represent the law. .With these portraits, I try to depict each virtue, humanising the archetypes in a different way, while exploring their symbolism & meaning in the modern day. Through the process of creating, I question their application in today's society while adding contemporary elements. .Are humans designed to be subject to such pure abstract ideas, separate from the profound complexity of the human psyche, the soul and the condition we find ourselves in? How do we as imperfect beings deal with reason and natural law?
How can we live in balance with each virtue while remaining aware of morality and our own shadows?
With my depiction and the headline ‘Cats Cause Covid’ triggering the fearful reaction of 'Courage', I try to question the endless feed of often hegemonic headlines , the constant debate of "Fake News" and the persistent fear that has infiltrated and influenced our way of life.
One of the 4 cardinal virtues also found in the Tarot is ‘Temperance’ and was considered by Plato to be the most important virtue. Temperance signifies an equilibrium and moderation, a balance in all things and a being in harmony with both the inner and outer world. The pouring of water equally between two cups symbolises the alchemy & flow of life itself. In a sense it could be seen as a being rather than a doing, as an intemperate person always needs to be doing something.
The third of the cardinal virtues, ‘Prudence’, visible in the Tarot as 'The Hermit', represents wisdom in self-reflection and inner-sight, and is often depicted with a mirror and a snake to represent this.
The last of the 4 cardinal virtues ‘Justice’ is most often depicted holding a sword of action & truth, scales and blindfolds to represent impartiality. In ancient Egyptian mythology Justice was represented by the goddess Ma'at who weighed the hearts of the deeds of the dead against a single feather upon their arrival in the underworld. Justice has taken a variety of names throughout the ages some being Dike or Astraea in Greek mythology. In the story of Astraea, she lived on earth amongst humanity but left for the heavens due to her disappointment at the wickedness of the human race. According to this myth, she will one day return to Earth bringing forth the return of the Golden Age. It wasn't until the 16th century that Justice started being depicted as blindfolded to suggest justice be applied without regard to wealth, power or any other status that may affect true judgement.