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A poor man sits dejectedly, whilst behind him, the people of the city, bedecked in bright coloured robes celebrate its salvation. There are brambles at the feet of the poor man, symbolising the thorns and pains of his life, compared to the richness behind him. At the man’s feet is a book, open to a passage from Ecclesiastes, which forms part of the 'Poetical Book and Writings' in the Old Testament. The verse is as follows: 'There was a little city and few men within it, and there came a great king against it and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it. Now there was found a poor wise man; and he by his wisdom delivered the city; but not one remembers the same poor man. So I said: Wisdom is better than might; yet the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heeded'. Unlike conquering heroes who are feted by society, this diplomat has been forgotten by the very citizens whom he has saved from the terrors of war. He provides a contrast to the young soldiers in 'Our Lady of Peace and Victoria Dolorosa' who has won military honours but hollow victories.
De Morgan Collection
The Poor Man Who Saved the City
oil on canvas
H 115.6 x W 53.3 cm