Pallas Expelling the Vices was the second mythological garden painting Mantegna created for Isabella d’Este (Paris,
Louvre, 1500-02, Figure 3). Isabella described the idea for it as “a battle of Chastity and Lasciviousness, that is Pallas and Diana combating vigorously against Venus and Cupid.” The goddess, Diana, however, is not pictured in the painting. Here we have two virgins, Athena and Daphne, driving out Lust and the Vices from the garden. Three of the Cardinal Virtues, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude, having been driven out previously by the depravities which had been occupying the place, return to the garden in an oval cloud formation.
The fourth Virtue, Prudence, is walled up inside the stone structure on the far right of the painting, and only a
white fluttering banner reflects her cry for help."
End Quote from "Gardens and Grottoes in Later Works by Mantegna" by Carola Naumer
According to Seznec in his 'The survival of the pagan gods':
"1. Compare in Mantegna's painting the Virtues which observe the battle from on high; an inscription even speaks of the Mother of Virtues (Et mihi virtutum matri succurite divi) which according to Foerster would be Truth, invisible."
Nicholos Web identifies Pallas with Prudence and the mater virtutem to "Sapiental Wisdom, Truth or Virtue herself."(Campbell n2, p344)
The inscription on the water's edge that serves to identify the armless figure of Otium in the lake reads:
Otium su tollas periere cupidinis arcus
A line from Ovid’s Remedia Amoris ‘Love’s Cure’:
"Put sloth aside, and at once you break in twain the shafts of Love; his torch is out, and henceforth is but a thing for jest and mockery. As the plane tree loveth wine, as the poplar loveth the pure stream, as the marshy reed loveth slimy soil, so doth Venus delight in idleness. Love flees from toil; if, then, you would banish love from your heart, find some work for your idle hands to do and then you will be safe. Dolce far niente, too much sleep, gambling, and overmuch wine-bibbing cloud the brain and, though they deal it no serious wound, filch away its energy."
The scroll of the 'talking' Olive Tree 'babbles in three ancient tongues. Two of these ... in pseudo greek and hebrew...is indecipherable. The Latin reads AGITE, PELLITE SEDIBUS NOSTRIS/FOEDA HAEC VICIORUM MONSTRA/VIRTUTEM COELITUS AS NOS REDEUNTIUM/DIVAE COMITES: "Come, divine companions in virtue who are returning to us from Heaven, expell these foul monsters of Vices from our seats." (p.147)
Campbell, Stephen J. The Cabinet of Eros: Renaissance mythological painting and the studiolo of Isabelle d'Este
(Yale University Press 2004).
Web, Nicholas, "Momus with Little Flatteries: Intellectual Life at the Italian Courts," in Mantegna and Fifteenth-century Court Culture,
ed. Francis Ames-Lewis and Anka Bednarek (London, 1993), 69.(quoted in Campbell n2, p344)