Galleria delle Tappezzerie


The "Mystic Wine" tapestry - Flanders, c. 1500-1522 (tapestry in wool and silk, with silver and silver-gilt threads; height 139 cm, width 173 cm) - 357K ; small image - 123K
The subject is based upon the grape, symbol of the Passion and of the Eucharist.(360K) In the center are the Virgin and Child (300K), before whom a woman kneels, holding a chalice in her right hand; the woman, who wears modern (16th century) clothing (279K) is an allegory of the Church. Jesus offer her a bunch of grapes from the chalice, symbolizing the Eucharistic wine.
The figure to the left is Simon, son of Onia (230K), high priest of the Old Law, as the scroll inscription (243K) (VVE 50 - Vulgatae Ecclesiastes 50:15) indicates; he wears modern clothing. (221K)
The figure to the right is probably Isaiah (367K) according to the accompanying scroll (VSA 29 -Isaiah 24:9).
In the background, two singing angels (331K) are accompanying themselves on a a harp and a viola, while a third angel is watching them. A fourth angel (388K) listens and observes the action in the foreground; a typical Flemish landscape is visible behind him.
The tapestry, currently exhibited in Appartamento Pontificio, was probably commissioned by pope Julius II (1503-1512), whose uncle, pope Sixtus IV, published in 1472 a treatise entitled De Sanguine Christi (Of Christ's Blood).

The Crucifixion and the Annunciation - Flanders, c. 1500-1525 (tapestry in wool and silk with silver-gilt threads; height 182 cm, width 193 cm) - 354K ; small image - 122K
The tapestry is divided in two areas. Above, is the Crucifixion (334K) with the Virgin and Apostle John standing at the foot of the Cross. At the left of the Lord's Cross, against the bacground of a Northern landscape with trees and houses, is Dimas, the repentant thief (342K), while at the right, stands the cross of the unrepentant thief (325K).
Below, framed by arcades supported by columns, are three separate scenes. On the left (297K) are Saint John the Baptist, with a book and a lamb, Saint Augustine, holding his heart in his hand and Saint Jerome, with the lion beside him.
In the center is the Annunciation (352K), set in an interior. At the foot of the Cross is the Spanish royal shield (352K), which, along with certain facial resemblances, suggests that the angel of the Annunciation and the Virgin are, respectively, Ferdinand and Isabella, the "Catholic Kings"; the shield of arms clearly indicates that the tapestry was a gift from the Spanish royal family. On the right (288K) are Saint Catherine of Alexandria, who treads upon the wheel of her martyrdom and grips the sword with which she was killed and Saint Martha, who holds a basin of holy water; the dragon that was trampled by the saint is no longer visible, since it was in the bottom portion of the tapestry, which was lost.
The scenes are framed with a floral border; the left upper corner contains a tondo with the symbol of Saint John (130K). The right upper corner contains a tondo with the symbol of Saint Mark (141K). The missing portion at the bottom, about 30 cm high, includes the dragon, the floral border and the tondi with the symbols of Evangelists Luke and Mathew. The tapestry was probably designed as an altarpiece.
The Miraculous Draught of Fishes - Pieter van Aelst, after a cartoon by Raphael Sanzio, c. 1519 (tapestry in silk and wool, with silver-gilt threads; height 490 cm, width 441 cm) - 345K ; small image - 83K ; small detail - 115 K.
Luke (5:1-11) recounts how Jesus, sitting in a boat, began teaching the multitudes on the shore (370K). Then he asked Simon Peter to head towards deep water and cast the fishing nets again. Peter obeyed and they caught such a large amount of fish (340K), that the nets began to break (297K). They called for help and they filled both boats (368K), so that they began to sink.
Simon Peter fell down at Jesus' feet, saying"Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" - 358K. For amazement had seized him and also James, son of Zebedee, his brother John and all their companions, because of the catch of fish which they had taken. And Jesus said to Simon "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men."
In the background, one can recognize the Vatican hill (319K), with the towers along the wall of Leo IV, and Saint Peter's under construction.
The cranes in the foreground (343K), symbols of vigilance, are contrasted with the seagulls (364K) that allude to sin and apostasy.
In the lower border two episodes in the life of Giovanni de'Medici (Pope Leo X) are depicted: on the left, his retinue (336K), as he arrives in Rome for the conclave (304K). On the right, the election of March 11, 1513 (366K). The border simulates a relief and is executed in chiaroscuro.
Border, with the Seasons - Pieter van Aelst, after a cartoon by Raphael Sanzio, c. 1519 (tapestry in silk and wool, with silver-gilt threads; height 490 cm, width 80 cm)) - 23K
It portrays the sequence of the four seasons, characterized by the fruits produced by nature. The two embracing young people at the top represent Spring (133K). The woman with the sheaf of wheat represents Summer (79K), while the putti climbing on the grape vines symbolize Autumn (115K). The group of the shrouded, seated figure and Juno on a stormy cloud signifies Winter (127K).
The two borders with the Seasons and the Hours, together with the Miraculous Draught of Fishes, are part of a series devoted to Apostles Peter and Paul; they were commissioned from Raphael by Pope Leo X for the Sistine Chapel in 1513-1514. Seven tapestries were completed for Christmas 1519; according to some reports, the series included at least ten tapestries. Most of them were lost in 1527, during the Sack of Rome, when the whole series was stolen and sold by the troops of Charles V; only a few were subsequently retrieved.
Border, with the Hours - Pieter van Aelst, after a cartoon by Raphael Sanzio c. 1519 (tapestry in silk and wool, with silver-gilt threads; height 498 cm, width 81 cm) - 23K
Three groups of figures, each pair back to back, represent the division of the day into conventional time spans. At the top, right under the two angels (125K) supporting the coat of arms, Apollo and Diana (127K) sit on either side of an architectural support, on top of which there is an hourglass. Below them are the allegorical figures of Day and Night, which sit on a clock supported by a monumental candelabrum. Immediately underneath there are two figures with cornucopias (92K), symbolic of the abundance produced by Time. A satyr at the bottom (121K) seems to support the entire structure.
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Last Revision: June 15, 1997

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