Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wheel of Fortune

The ancients as well as medieval people never seemed to tire of meditating on the idea of the "rota fortunae" literally, the "wheel of fortune" as a reminder of the transitory nature of worldly success. Fate or luck, personified as the goddess Fortuna, was depicted turning the crank on a large wheel. Seated on the wheel were various people either ascending to the top of the wheel or descending to the bottom.
In our example of the "Rota Fortunae", (courtesy of aclerkofoxford@blogspot.com) a regal looking fellow wearing a crown is seated at the top. He is holding the symbols of earthy power. But his crowned companion to is right is already headed downward, his neighbor has lost his crown and his regal attire and the poor unfortunate on the bottom is falling off the wheel entirely!

But to his left, clinging to the wheel with all his might, another man is being slowly raised up and the man ahead of him reaches for the prize.

I too managed to take a ride this evening on the "Rota Fortunae" . Of course, my turn on the wheel involved (what else?) gilding. The wheel started turning as I began carefully applying gold leaf to the bole of the halo of the icon of Christ that I have been hard at work on for the past couple of days.

After over an hour of painstaking work, I applied the final piece of gold leaf. There I was, the fellow reaching expectantly for the crown and orb, which appeared to be just within reach. After waiting for the requisite length of time , I began gently burnishing the gilding. That was when Bella Fortuna gave the wheel a turn -- the halo wouldn't burnish! And then she gave it another turn -- each stroke of the burnisher was scraping off the gold leaf!

Something, it soon became evident, was wrong with the bole, which meant that it had to come off. All of it, which involved soaking the bole, scraping it all away and then cleaning off the muddy red clay mess smeared on the icon.

In the end not too much the worse for wear.

So I'm ready to climb back on the wheel. I plan on hanging on tight and hoping that I'm on the upswing as I get ready to gild that halo again.

Is it my imagination, or does Fortuna have a slight smile? And isn't she supposed to be blindfolded?

1 comment:

  1. I notice Fortuna is wearing a crown too, and it is not about to fall off. Who is the winner here?
    Your poor bole! Now I am convinced there is no disaster that can't be fixed on an icon, IF one is willing to be humble and patient in the extreme!
    Better Fortuna next time!