Highlight of the month


Wheel of fortune (Lbs 656 4to)

This drawing showing a “wheel of fortune” comes from a manuscript from the middle of the 19th century. It portrays a well-dressed girl in the middle of a wheel held by four men in elegant clothing. Perhaps these are her possible suitors. The man at the top of the wheel has a crown on his head but the girl´s facial expression is ambiguous. The idea of a fortune or happiness wheel has his roots in an ancient tale about the goddess of fortune who controls people’s fate by turning a wheel they are fastened to. Some become the victims of bad fate whereas others enjoy much happiness.

The drawing is very similar to a drawing in an ancient European manuscript which contains the poem Carmina Burana. There one can see a crowned woman in the middle of a circle. From the centre there are axles to the wheel whereupon four men are hanging. The one at the top is crowned, the one upside down is dropping his crown and the other two are without a crown. The men are marked „Regno, Regnavi, Sum sine regno and Regnabo“ (I reign, I reigned, I reign no more and I will reign). Somehow this pictorial image of the power struggle of men has found its way to Iceland and appears such in this drawing.. The manuscript with the Icelandic drawing includes various fragments from the 18th and 19th centuries including a collection of letters, reports on old turf-farmhouses in Reykjavík, a poem by Hallgrímur Pétursson, comments on the smoothing down of grass fields, folk medicine and more. The material stems from various sources, e.g., from medical doctor Jónas Jónassen, judge Vilhjálmur Finsen and Steingrímur Thorsteinsson, the rector of Reykjavík gymnasium.

The manuscript can be seen at the exhibition:


The complete manuscript can be found at handrit.is:


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