Christ the Saviour as a Child (Cristo Salvador como Niño)
After the Fall of Man, Vices mastered his soul and only the arrival of Christ could put an end to this situation. In different episodes, this tapestry shows the birth and childhood of the Saviour according to the Gospels of Saint Matthew and Saint Luke. Like the other pieces in the series, it lacks all marks, and the escutcheons of Bishop Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca and a border of plants framing the story are sewn in.
The sequence of scenes starts on the left side, in which a group of wise men of Antiquity and sibyls point at heaven to the place where Mary appears with the Child, foretelling the Incarnation. At the same height on the opposite end, the Visitation is shown: the meeting between the pregnant cousins is enhanced with the apparition of two teenagers greeting each other, an allegory of the unborn John and Jesus, who are identified with their names. Both scenes flank the main one: the Epiphany. The Magi – representing the three ages of Man, youth, maturity and old age – offer their presents to the Baby in the arms of his mother and in the presence of several characters and Virtues, which are labelled. In the upper register, several scenes take place: the Circumcision of Christ, the Magi meeting Herod, the Presentation in the Temple and Jesus before the doctors.
I will call my son from Egypt
In the bottom left part there is a seated character with a phylactery reading ‘EX AEGYPTO VOCAVI FILIVM MEVM’ (I will call my son from Egypt); this is a quote from the Gospel (Matthew 2, 15) which can also be found in the Old Testament (Hosea 11, 1). It could refer to the former as a messianic prophecy, although it more likely refers to the Evangelist’s text. Located on the opposite end to the prophets and sibyls, it closes the narrative started with the announcement of the arrival of the Lord, which continues with scenes from his life and finishes with Saint Matthew’s verse.
No other complete tapestry like this is preserved, although the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University keeps one split in two parts, with a minor loss on the left side.
Series Human Redemption or Vices and Virtues
Fifth tapestry in the series (second of those kept in Palencia)
Manufacture Brussels’ workshops, c. 1510
Size 425 x 800 cm
Fabric Silk and wool, 7 warps per cm
Location Cathedral of Palencia
Origin A bequest by Bishop Fonseca, 1527
On display Chapter House