The Struggle between Fortune and Poverty

Object Details


The Struggle between Fortune and Poverty


Boucicaut Master and workshop (French, active about 1390 - 1430)




Paris, France (Place created)


about 1413 - 1415


Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, and ink on parchment


Leaf: 42 x 29.6 cm (16 9/16 x 11 5/8 in.)

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On the left, the personification of Fortune, an elegantly dressed woman with wings, wrestles with the personification of Poverty, a woman raggedly dressed and barefoot. According to the text, Poverty wins this struggle and her victory has a moral message: the renunciation of worldly goods is a virtue that renders fate powerless. Those who voluntarily forsake fame, wealth, and power cannot be affected by a reversal of fortune.

After her triumph over Fortune, Poverty orders that Misfortune, shown partly clothed in the background, be bound to a column. Boccaccio himself appears on the right, dressed as a scholar in a red gown with a hood, echoing the text's mention that he had first heard this story from a professor of astronomy when he was a young student in Naples.

Related Works
Fashion in the Middle Ages (May 31 to August 14, 2011)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), May 31 to August 14, 2011