International Journal of the Classical Tradition

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 369–383 | Cite as

Cicero, Plutarch, and Vincenzo Foppa: Rethinking the Medici Bank Fresco (London, The Wallace Collection, Inv. P 538)

  • Howard Jones
  • Ross Kilpatrick


The Medici Bank Fresco (ca. 1463) by Vincenzo Foppa (ca. 1428–1515) is this artist’s only surviving secular work. It had survived three centuries of wind and weather before the Medici Bank palazzo in Milan was demolished in 1863, and its acquisition by Sir Richard Wallace in 1872. E. K. Water-house identified the subject in 1950 as “The Boy Cicero Reading,” attributing its literary invention to Plutarch’sVita Ciceronis (2.3), the interpretation generally accepted. Waterhouse’s note had appeared the year after Fernanda Wittgens (1949) proposed the title “Fanciulloleggente Cicerone.” Our investigation presents substantial reasons to support Wittgens’s reading: (1) the consistency of her argument with what we do know of Foppa’s decorative program for the Banco Mediceo, (2) the richer dramatic, historical, political, biographical, and ethical implications of a different passage of the Plutarch, and (3) the ideals for the virtuous ruler expressed in John of Salisbury’s pseudo-PlutarchanInstitutio Traiani as incorporated in hisPolicraticus.


Classical Tradition Cardinal Virtue Heighten Appreciation Photo Credit Roman Republic 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Howard Jones
    • 1
  • Ross Kilpatrick
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ClassicsMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Department of ClassicsQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

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