Gustave, Baron de Wappers, was one of the main influences on mid-19th Century Belgian painting and Principal of the School of Fine Arts from 1840 to 1853. He was the leading court painter to the King and was the first artist to paint the Sovereign's portrait from life, as a pair to Ary Scheffer's portrait of the Queen.
In this impressive work, de Wappers depicts Boccaccio reading the Decameron to Joanna of Naples. Joanna, Countess of Provence and Queen of Naples (1343-82), was the beautiful and intelligent patron of poets and scholars, who defended the claim of the house of Anjou to the throne of Naples following the death of her grandfather Robert, King of Naples, in 1343. Under King Robert, Naples had enjoyed a period of prosperity and had become a centre for literature and art.
Boccaccio's name and the title of his most famous work, the Decameron, can be see on the pages of parchment in his lap. Completed between 1348 and 1353, the Decameron, had an enormous impact on the history of European literature, serving as the inspiration for the whole genre of the 'novella' and as the model for other framed story collections, such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.