Book chapter

La tradition iconographique de la fortune face à la nouveauté conceptuelle : le cas des manuscrits de l'Aristote latin (XIIIe-XIVe siècle)


  • 2019
Published in:
  • Belles Lettres : les figures de l'écrit au Moyen Âge / Figurationen des Schreibens in Mittelalter. - 2019, vol. Scrinium Friburgense, 44, p. 155-175
English The importance of the concept of fortune in the Middle Ages has been widely recognized and, as far as medieval iconography is concerned, the images of fortuna that became frequent in the Latin West from the IXth century are well-known today among scholars and outside the academic world: in these images, fortune is depicted following a passage of Boethius’ famous Consolation of Philosophy (Book II, proses 1 and 2) as a constantly turning wheel, that instantiates a kind of cosmic inevitability that regularly alternates contrasting situations in human life, e.g. wealth and poverty, etc. However, in existing studies concerning these representations of the wheel of fortune, a series of relevant sources has remained almost completely ignored: these are the images of fortune to be found in historiated initials in five manuscripts containing the so-called Liber de bona fortuna, a compilation that was part of the Latin Aristotelian corpus from the 1260s and had a remarkable impact on medieval and Renaissance discussions on fate, fortune, free-will and related topics. In this article, I draw attention to the copies of this influential treatise that contain visual representations of fortuna, to observe how a particular iconographic tradition might resist a conceptual innovation – in this case, the original content of the Aristotelian opuscule on good fortune, that in fact has almost nothing to do with the Boethian notion of fortune and fate, nor with the concept of fortune that is present in other Aristotelian texts such as Physics and Metaphysics.
Faculté des lettres et des sciences humaines
Département de Philosophie
  • French
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