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Girolamo da Carpi - Opportunity and Remorse

by Laura Gerstmann

A youth, the center of the picture, prances on tiptoe on a sphere. With a taut upper body and flowing hair, his knotted robe flutters around his body. In his right raised hand he holds a razor. Slightly he has tilted his head and considers with his look a woman pressing to the right edge of the picture. Her eyes are directed at the feet of the sphere.

Occasion passes by regret! Girolamo da Carpi chooses for his depiction of Fortuna the figure of Kairos, the Greek male variant, instead of the traditional female form of Occasione. The sphere on which the youth stands and the wings attached to his heels are attributes of Fortuna, the goddess of fate, and signify changeability and impermanence. Kairos can also be recognized by his razor, which he uses to shave the back of his head whenever someone tries to seize the opportunity. His prancing feet, turned to the side, signal that the opportunity has already passed. Remorse, on the other hand, is embodied by a young lady on the right edge of the picture. 

The drama of the picture is intensified by the gloomy cloudy background, from which the young man stands out radiantly. An invisible light source in the upper left corner of the picture illuminates Kairos and the face of the personified repentance. Thus, the light atmosphere gives something divine to Kairos in particular. 

Girolamo da Carpi - Opportunity and Remorse

Oil on canvas, 1541, 211 x 110 cm , Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden

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