The Virtues and Vices in the Arts: A Sourcebook

By Shawn R. Tucker (editor)

An anthology of literary extracts and artistic images exploring virtue and vice in Western culture, from classical and biblical times to the modern era.

ISBN: 9780718894047


The seven deadly sins are pride, envy, anger, sloth, gluttony, greed, and lust. The seven virtues are prudence, fortitude, temperance, justice, faith, hope, and love. The Virtues and Vices in the Arts brings all of them together and for the first time lays out their history in a collection of the most important philosophical, religious, literary, and art-historical works.

Starting with the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian antecedents, this anthology of source documents traces the tradition of virtues and vices through its cultural apex during the medieval era and then into their continued development and transformation from the Renaissance to the present. This anthology includes excerpts of Plato’s Republic, the Bible, Dante’s Purgatorio, and the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and C.S. Lewis. Also included are works of art from medieval manuscripts; paintings by Giotto, Veronese, and Paul Cadmus; prints by Brueghel; and a photograph by Oscar Rejlander. What these works show is the vitality and richness of the virtues and vices in the arts from their origins to the present.

Additional information

Dimensions 254 × 178 mm
Pages 302
Illustrations b&w

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Shawn R. Tucker is Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Elon University, North Carolina. He was recently the guest editor for a special issue of Interdisciplinary Humanities, and has received a National Endowment for the Humanities Enduring Questions grant to develop a course on Pride, Humility, and the Good Life.


List of Figures

     A House Divided
     Virtues, Vices, Sins, and Gifts of the Spirit

Part I: Foundations
     Human Potential and Protection I
     Human Potential and Protection II

     Plato’s The Republic
     Aristotle’s The Nicomachean Ethics
     Cicero’s Of Duties
     Paul’s Letters

Part II: Codification of the Virtues and Vices
     Tertullian’s The Shows
     Prudentius’s Psychomachia
     Evagrius of Pontus’s On the Eight Thoughts
     Gregory the Great’s Morals on the Book of Job

Part III: The Medieval Apex
     Divine Endowment
     The Struggle
     Contraries Cured by Contraries
     The Summa

     Psychomachia Illustrations
     Illustrations of the Speculum Virginum
     Hildegard of Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum
     Notre Dame of Amiens Twelve Virtues and Twelve Vices
     Giotto’s Virtues and Vices in the Arena Chapel
     Dante’s Purgatorio
     Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Paintings in the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena
     William Langland’s Piers Plowman
     Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Parson’s Tale”

Part IV: The Transformation of the Virtues and Vices
     Divine Endowment II
     Struggle II
     The Virtues and Vices in Everyday Life and in Death
     The Vitality of Vice

     Piero del Pollaiuolo’s Seven Virtues
     Andrea Mantegna’s Minerva Chases the Vices from the Garden of Virtue
     Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince
     Bernaert van Orley (Designer) and Workshop of Pieter van Aelst (Weaver) The Honors
     Peter Brueghel the Elder’s Virtues and Vices
     Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene

Part V: The Tradition Extended
     The Struggle III
     The Virtues and Vices in Everyday Life and in Death II
     The Vitality of Vice II

     Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography
     Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil and The Antichrist
     Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s The Seven Deadly Sins
     C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity
     Paul Cadmus’s The Seven Deadly Sins


Appendix: Key Virtues and Vices Works
Acknowledgment of Copyright


Endorsements and Reviews

Tucker puts excerpts from philosophical treatises into conversation with religious and literary compositions. Even more interesting, he draws on key artistic works, paintings, and sculpture, allowing the reader to imagine other ways to think about ethical problems. With a useful and accessible introduction, not to mention shorter introductions for each reading, Tucker has constructed an excellent sourcebook for any undergraduate class touching on the history of ethics in the Western tradition.
Dallas G. Denery II, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine

Shawn Tucker demonstrates how the concepts of virtue and vice are not only very relevant to contemporary Western culture but have a comprehensive, fluid, and contested history in art and literature. This interdisciplinary study of these core cultural concepts, and a serious inquiry into what behaviour we sanction and what behaviour we condemn, is a welcome addition to the study of humanities. Tucker’s lively introductions are especially effective at linking ancient texts and artistic works to modern ones, with generous nods to contemporary music, television, and cultural phenomenon such as fad diets and Christian rock.
Lee Ann Elliott Westman, University of Texas at El Paso

Shawn R. Tucker’s well-conceived sourcebook on The Virtues and the Vices in the Arts fills an important niche, and will be especially helpful for students just embarking on their study of the art and literature of European civilization. It represents a very useful compilation of key texts and illustrative artworks that document the historical conversation and debate about the moral life that has shaped the different cultures springing from Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian antiquity.
Dwight D. Allman, Baylor University

Shawn Tucker has done a great service bringing together a variety of texts and images from the rich tradition surrounding the vices and virtues, texts as different as Plato’s Republic and Hildegard of Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum, and images as varied as Brueghel’s engravings of lust and anger and Paul Cadmus’s paintings of envy and pride. This anthology will be a welcome resource for students of history, philosophy, literature, and art.
Holly Johnson, Mississippi State University

In The Virtues and the Vices in the Arts, Shawn Tucker has brought together important works on the vices and virtues that outline the trajectories of the development, diversification, and sometimes reversal, of these lively concepts over more than two thousand years of human thinking about morals and ethics. … The sources gathered here present both nonspecialists and specialists with enough material to appreciate the diversity and vitality of the long-lasting debate on the nature of vice and virtue in Western culture.
Rhonda L. McDaniel, Middle Tennessee State University

Shawn Tucker’s anthology offers a delightful journey through classic works of philosophy, theology, art, and literature with a heavy dose of wit. The structure of the book is crucial to its success. … With its well-chosen selections, insightful argument, and memorable imagery, Tucker’s anthology is a useful collection for those interested in a wide variety of fields. Students of history or philosophy, art or literature, and theology or ethics will find value in the pages of this book, as it promises to serve as a resource to which they return again and again.
Derek R. Davenport, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 24, Issue 3