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‘The eternal cycle’ – a 200 year old view on economy

May 31, 2012 – The Austrian museums are proposing 100 objects in a large-scale publicity campaign. We do not want to keep you from seeing how a painter saw the economic cycle 200 years ago. In the regional museum of Stockerau a painting is kept called ‘The eternal cycle’. It shows the continuous repetitions in human life dealing sociocritically with society and the impact on life conditions and standards. The painting was created at the end of the 18th century by an anonymous artist on a simple framed wooden board. Nevertheless it was made 200 years ago, its topic is still relevant.

'The eternal cycle'. Oil on wood, 29 x 48 cm, c. 1800, anonymous. Photo: Bezirksmuseum Stockerau.

'The eternal cycle'. Oil on wood, 29 x 48 cm, c. 1800, anonymous. Photo: Bezirksmuseum Stockerau.

The six men wearing 17th century costumes symbolise the particular social status of people. The image covers all human existence starting with the beggar in a humble attitude and common, even spoilt clothes, who takes his hat off to the opposite person who has just been promoted to merchant. The merchant offers his commodities to the rich. The rich man with a fine costume holds a purse in his hands looking self-confidently at the painting’s spectator. The bulging money bag and the filled money chest at his feet lead on to nobility and arrogance. The nobleman is clad in red cloth and looks with an expression of arrogance at the warrior wearing a body armour and holding a sword in his hand thus representing the war. The cycle ends again with a poor, a beggar who has lost everything within the war. With only one leg and a wooden crutch wearing miserable clothes and staring down in desperation this figure closes the ‘eternal cycle’.

Poverty / makes humility / humility makes / promotion / promotion / makes rich / rich makes / arrogance / arrogance makes war / war makes poverty.

For further information on the museum visit the website of Stockerau.

The website of the campaign is here.

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