Word of the Day Archive
Thursday June 17, 1999
virtu \vuhr-TOO; vir-\ , noun:
1. love of or taste for fine objects of art.
2. Productions of art (especially fine antiques).
3. Artistic quality.
The Italian humanist Giovanni Pontano described these objects as "statues, pictures, tapestries, divans, chairs of ivory, cloth interwoven with gems, many-coloured boxes and coffers in the Arabian style, crystal vases and other things of this kind . . . [whose] sight . . . is pleasing and brings prestige to the owner of the house." They all spoke to the wealth, taste and virtu of their owner.
-- John Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination
Divans, Persian rugs, easy chairs, books, statuary, articles of virtu and bric-a-brac are on every side, and the whole has the appearance of a place where one could dream his life away.
-- "Mark Twain's Summer Home", The New York Times, September 10, 1882
Virtu comes from Italian virtù "virtue, excellence," from Latin virtus, "excellence, worth, goodness, virtue."