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The wheel of Fortune, showing the rise and fall of European powers. Etching and letterpress, ca. 1689.

Bouttats, Philibert, 1654 or 1655-
  • Pictures

About this work


The wheel of Fortune (1) is turned by Time (2) and Mars (3); in its centre is a winged hour-glass (4) with a laurel branch (6) and thunderbolts (7), surrounded by the serpent of eternity (5). Hooks of torture (8) protrude from the rim of the wheel

At the top, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I (9) stands triumphant, beneath him a column (10) serves as a spoke of the wheel, and his foot rests on a turban (11) and lilies (12) representing his victories over Turkey and France. To the left, King William III of England (13) strides up the wheel, a palm-tree (14) serving as a spoke beneath him: he holds a flag proclaiming Protestant religion and liberty (15) surmounted by the cap of liberty. A woman representating the Netherlands (17) reclines at his feet holding a shield lettered "Concordia ...". To the left and below him is his brother- in-law George, Prince of Denmark (16)

Below on the left are the rulers of Saxony, Bavaria and Brandenburg (18), their spoke being a sword entwined with laurel (19). Clinging to the wheel below are Sweden and Denmark holding a caduceus representing trade and a mirror representing prudence (20), and climbing on to it is the Duke of Savoy (21) who reaches towards a spoke formed of the anchor of hope (22).

On the right, descending, side of the wheel, Louis XIV (23) falls from the top with an exploding bomb on his head and a burning brand in his hand; a rope (27) attached to a money bag at his belt is being pulled by James II (24) who has fallen off the wheel and crawls on the ground with his young son James Francis Edward Stuart, Prince of Wales (25); above them is a spoke formed of a sheaf of corn (26). Nearing the ground on the descending side, the Duke of Tyrconnell (28), James II's supporter, is clinging beside the remains of a broken column, the remains of a spoke. Above him, a Turk seen from behind (30), holding a scimitar and a shield with a crescent moon, is dragged from the wheel by Count Imre Tököly, the Hungarian leader of the anti-Habsburg uprising and ally of the Turks; his spoke is a flaming sword (32)

Further up the wheel on the right, the Grand Dauphin (33) grasps his father around the waist restraining his movement; his spoke is a hand-screw, an instrument of torture. At the top of the wheel on the left, King Charles II of Spain (35) stands between William III and the Emperor, and on the right of the Emperor his son, Joseph, then King of Hungary (XXXV) draws a sword. On the ground beneath, to left, a Swiss guard (36) counts money gained from mercenary adventures; beyond him is a land at peace (37). To right, a peasant representing the Palatinate (38) tears his hair as his young son pleads at his side, and rats and mice (39) eat their paltry provisions; beyond him is a town in flames (40). Seen through the wheel, on the right is a battle on a stormy sea (41), and on the left, ships sailing beneath in the sunshine (42). At top, Plenty empties her cornucopia (43), an avenging angel (44) flies above William III, Justice (45) holds a sword whose flames strike Louis XIV, and Hercules (46) raises his club to drive off the harpies of war (47)


Tot Antwerpen (in den Wieg-straat by den Muir) : Voor Philibert Bouttats, de Jonge, Printverkoper, [1689?]

Physical description

1 print : etching, with letterpress ; platemark 36.3 x 38.9 cm, image and letterpress 54.2 x 38.8 cm


(1) T' hedendaagsrad van avontuur. Word door de (2) tyd (3) en Mars omgedrayt … Geeft t'allen tyden nodig voordeel.

Publications note

F. Muller, De nederlandsche geschiedenis in platen, part 1, Amsterdam: Frederik Muller, 1870, no. 2769
British Museum, catalogue of political and personal satires, no. 1218 (lacking the verses)


Wellcome Library no. 2136945i

Lettering note

Below the etching, four columns of letterpress containing a key to 47 numbered figures in Dutch prose (two columns) and six stanzas of Dutch verse (two columns)


  • Dutch

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