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Work Allegory of Fortune

Department of Paintings: Flemish painting

Allegory of Fortune (Fortuna Marina)

© 1994 RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda

Flemish painting

Guillaume Kazerouni

Fortune, by definition unstable, stands on a globe of the world dispensing good and ill. She is depicted here in a maritime guise - the fragile boat (our destiny) is afloat on an ocean full of dangers, the capricous wind filling its sails.

A dynasty of painters

Like the Brueghels, the Franckens were an important dynasty of painters who met with enormous success in Europe. Frans II was the most illustrious of them. He specialized in small works with historical, allegorical, or Biblical subjects, enlivened by crowds of small figures and painted with very meticulous brush strokes. Typical of his compositions are the rich, warm shades of color and slender, elegant shapes that can be seen in this painting.


The Roman goddess Fortuna is haphazardly distributing her favors. In classical times she was the protector of cities and during the Hellenistic period, she was identified with the Egyptian goddess Isis. She also corresponds to the Greek goddess Tyche. Here, she personifies Fortune in a maritime guise. Standing on a globe, she is at the mercy of the opposing winds that pull her hair and the veil she is holding in contrary directions, thus illustrating her unpredictable character. She stands at the center of the composition and divides it in two: on the left are those, from a variety of countries, upon whom she smiles and, on the right, those from whom she turns away. On one side, she is distributing wealth to the people in the form of jewels and different emblems of power like the crown and miter. She brings peace and happiness to society, symbolized by the caduceus. On the other side, she is turning away from the damned of the earth - the lame, the sick, the beggars, and those who are shipwrecked. The scene takes place in front of a town with a harbor. On the right, a tempest rages and, in the background, a town is consumed by flames. On the left, a city bathed in sunlight contrasts with this apocalyptic vision.

The fortunes of a genre

Fortune at sea portrays the destiny of man who is subject to the caprices of nature and history. The human condition is renowned for the absurdity and injustice of the events that are part of it, as well as the way those who are favored by fortune neglect others. These small paintings, so full of good sense and so skilfully executed, were much appreciated by connoisseurs who became very enamored of them. The picture in the Louvre comes from the collection of Louis XIV. There was a particular vogue for this painter in France and his works are mentioned many times in art collections and sales of the period.

Technical description

  • Frans II FRANCKEN, dit Francken le Jeune (Anvers, 1581 - Anvers, 1642)

    Allegory of Fortune (Fortuna Marina)

    c. 1615/20

  • H. 0.67 m; W. 1.05 m

  • Collection of Louis XIV (entered between 1683 and 1709)

    INV. 1294

  • Paintings

Practical information

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Additional information about the work

Signed on the pedestal of Fortune: Do F. Franck [sic] In.