From Werner’s Magazine, January, 1895, by way of the Historical Spectator. This must certainly be the most terrifying allegorical depiction of the three theological virtues in the history of engraving.


  1. David Poecking says:

    Though perhaps more figurative than allegorical, Glenn Beck’s depiction comes pretty close to being equally scary:

  2. Paul Hughes says:

    I think I get it … faith looking up to Heaven, hope afflicted (garment torn off shoulder?) but unbowed, charity affectionate (arms wrapped around hope) … still creepy.

  3. C. Simon says:

    The Three Virtues of Snark-Hunting. Care (right) has the thimbles in her pockets; Hope (center) is deadly accurate with that giant fork; shifty-eyed girl on the left is ready to sell us a map we can all understand.

  4. C. Simon says:

    Actually I suppose that is Faith in the center, with the anchor (not the fork) holding within the storm, and Hope is humbly praying to heaven.

  5. Dr. Boli says:

    Hope is usually the one with the anchor (in reference to Hebrews 6:19). An obvious interpretation of this allegorical picture: Charity loves her sister Hope just the way she is, in spite of her dangerous anchor fetish; Faith cackles maniacally because she knows beyond a doubt where the other two will end up, leaving her in sole possession of their shared inheritance. Thus the engraving illustrates the Protestant doctrine of sola fide.

  6. or Daniel’s מְנֵא מְנֵא תְּקֵל וּפַרְסִֽין “mene mene tekel upharsin” words that appeared on the wall during Belshazzar’s Feast, in Greek μανη θεκελ φαρες “Mané , Thecel, Phares” aka Roman Parses? Nona (5:26 ‘betokens numbering’) or Greek Clotho, who spun the thread of life — meme echoed in rope of eternal life’s anchor perspectively extended out of canvas to the viewer — from her distaff onto her spindle ; Decima (5:27 ‘weighing’) Greek Lachesis, who measured with her rod — meme echoed in rood-cross; Morta (5:28 ‘rending’) Greek Atropos, who cut the thread of life — meme of loving bosom embrace of the Sacred Heart, distinct from sinner’s ‘pagan’ fate of being torn asunder — and chose the manner of a person’s death.

    Intriguing to me is the semitic rhetorical flourish: double-entry bookkeeping of the thread of life. All is gift (aka ‘credit’). We will be held to account for what we have made of it (aka the sum total in our ‘debit’ column).

  7. Clay Potts says:

    To me, it appears all three are standing/leaning/clinging to/beneath the Holy Cross? Perhaps shipwrecked and marooned souls, but never the less, safely anchored to the foundation of the cross?

  8. I don’t see the image. I get an image with “Image Not Available” on it.


  9. kyp says:

    The “Hey, sailor” vibe I’m getting from Hope and Charity, combined with that casually-held anchor, makes me think this is a honey trap of the worst kind. Faith isn’t even hiding her desire to knock me out with a sap and rifle through my pockets for my wallet.

  10. Jack Perry says:

    I see only Doubt, Despair, and Unchastity. Perhaps my lenses need an upgrade.

  11. C. Simon says:

    When Charity is Lucille Ball, it’s time to pack up and go home.

  12. Martin the Mess says:

    After two mighty swings of an anchor at the end of a rope, only Hope remained.

  13. Rabe says:

    Well, I thought it to be quite funny to see “Image not available” in that context but the comments above led to the curious feeling I missed something.

  14. Dr. Boli says:

    The “image not available” problem seems to happen to readers outside the United States. Google Books (where the image was hosted) still does not allow full access in many countries, so the problem will remain until Google’s lawyers are thoroughly convinced that a forgotten magazine of elocution from 1895 is out of copyright in places like New Zealand. Meanwhile, the solution is to host it on our own server, since Dr. Boli has not yet been banned in New Zealand, although he is working diligently toward that goal.

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