The J. Paul Getty Museum

Boethius Instructs a Young Boy in Arithmetic

Object Details


Boethius Instructs a Young Boy in Arithmetic


Virgil Master (French, active about 1380 - 1420)




Paris, France (Place Created)


about 1405


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

Object Number:

Ms. 72 (2003.25), fol. 26


Leaf: 39 × 30.5 cm (15 3/8 × 12 in.)

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Object Description

Boethius leans forward in his imposing chair to instruct the young boy who sits on a stool at his feet. The student extends his wax tablets, which display a series of numbers. The wax tablets were constructed of wooden boards, covered with wax. Students could write and then reuse the surface by covering it with new wax. The background of the scene is filled with a glittering checkerboard design called a diapered ground, which was used frequently in French illumination in the early 1400s. This image marks the transition in the manuscript between the end of Alchandreus's text and the beginning of Boethius's Arithmetica,a discussion of mathematics.