Titian Paints the Allegory of Prudence

The Allegory of Prudence (c. 1565-1570) is an oil painting by the Italian master Titian.

It is in the National Gallery, London.

The picture portrays three human heads, facing different directions, hanging over three animal one, depicting (from left) a wolf, a lion and a dog. The three human heads represent an allegory of the "Three Ages of Man" (youth, maturity, old age), like in the famous enigm of the Sphynx and as later described by Aristotle.

The humans are thought to be portraits of Titian, his son Orazio, and a young cousin, Marco Vecellio, who, like Orazio, lived and worked with Titian. Titian also painted a late self-portrait in 1567, from which the comparison is made. The other faces also occur in other Titian paintings of the period.

It is the only painting by Titian to contain a motto: EX PRAETERITO/PRAESENS PRUDENTER AGIT/NE FUTURA ACTIONẼ DETURPET ("From [the experience of] the past, the present acts prudently, lest it spoil future actions").

The painting is connected by Erwin Panofsky, in a famous exposition, with Titian's success in 1569 in transferring his senseria, a valuable "broker's patent" granted him by the Signoria, to his son. Titian is therefore the past, Orazio the present, and in the absence of a grandson, Marco is the future.