God send the Arcangel Gabriel
In this first panel of this series, God delivers a message to the Archangel Gabriel in which the Virgin Mary is chosen by hom to be the mother of Jesus.
A God’s message
The first panel shows in the center the Archangel Gabriel bringing God’s message to the Virgin Mary that she will be the future mother of Jesus. The Trinity (represented as crowned kings) are seated in glory above this scene, with God the Father passing his written message to Gabriel. The Virgin reading and at prayer receives this news with reserve and contemplation. To the right and left of Mary are personifications of Justice and Mercy.
Esther and Salomé
The two upper scenes represent Old Testament stories: to the left Queen Esther is presented to Assahuerus and to the right Salomé demands from Herodes the head of St. John the Baptist. Biblical queens were used in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance as exemplary role models for married princesses and brides such as Juana of Castile, who were expected to copy their examples of queenly virtue and rule.
Lower left the story Baalam and the mule who could speak, to the right the Tiburtine Sibyl who foresaw the coming of an emperor who would vanquish all the foes of Christianity. The latter scene an allusion to the future career of Philip the Fair as Habsburg emperor and his rule over the world empire of Spain.
Gold, nothing but gold
Four panels constitute this set, better known today as the Paños de Oro (cloths of gold). They are nicknamed so because of the immense amount of gold thread used in their weaving. Destined for private use and devotion, nevertheless they were expensive and are large in size: three meters in height with four meters in width. Juana paid van Aelst a considerable amount of money for these tapestries.
The principal iconography of these four tapestries are complex and rich. Secondary hidden references are made to the theme of matrimony and may explain the presence of royalty (kings and queens) in all three devotional panels. In some scenes, the display of nuptial portraits exchanged between royal courts are clearly visible.
Joana I of Castile and the Virgin Mary
The allegory and symbolism visualized here do not follow any canonical dictates, rather diverse episodes of the life of the Virgin are the principal motifs. In the form of woven altarpieces (retablos), these panels not only evocate specific events in the life of the Virgin, but also symbolically recall specific events in the lives of Juana and Philip the Fair: their betrothal which united the Habsburg dynasty with the court of the Catholic kings (Isabella and Ferdinand), their marriage and opulent court in the Netherlands.
A Court Arstist
The unknown artist, possibly the workshop of Colin de Cooter, a court artist favored by the Brussels court, has divided each panel into a series of five narratives boxed in by architectural elements (columns and arches) which structure the precise reading of the scenes. Rather than offering a panoramic view, the beholder is meant to view the main scene first and then the rest systematically.
Series Triumphs of the Mother or Paños de Oro
First tapestry in the series
Model Colin de Cooter?
Manufacture Pieter van Aelst (or van Edingen), Brussels, c. 1500-1502
Fabric Gold, silver, silk and wool
Size 320 x 372 cm
Location Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial
Origin Collection of Joana I of Castile
On display Halls of Honour
National Heritage Inv. 10034476