The falling of the manna in the desert
This scene, the third tapestry in the series, shows one of the moments when God sent manna to Moses and the Israelites; He provided the food every day during their forty-year sojourn in the desert, as told in the book of Exodus. The scene shows the harvesting of manna, which took place on the sixth day of the week, since they did not receive any manna on the seventh (Saturday, in the Jewish tradition).
Collecting the manna
Eight figures are arranged in the scene, around one man in the centre, who is bending over to pick up the precious food. Moses, identified by the rays of light coming out from his head and his long beard, occupies the left-hand side of the panel. Around him, two men and a youth gaze upon the miraculous falling off the manna which takes the form of small white flakes, as told in the biblical tale. Meanwhile, a man bending over places the flakes of the food in a bag for safekeeping. On the right-hand side, creating something of an aside, two women carry the manna stored in wicker baskets, one of them accompanied by a child.
A miraculous food
The presence of characters of both sexes and of differing ages alludes to the tale as told in the Babylonian Talmud, which noted that the manna took on different tastes depending on who ate it: honey for children, olives for young people and bread for the eldest.
The influence of Raphael
The postures of the characters, especially the women who walks with her back to the viewer, show the influence of Raphael in the work of Rubens.
A tapestry within a tapestry
In this tapestry, Rubens also uses the technique of the false tapestry which can be seen in the upper part, where a rope, attached with rings to a mascaron in the centre, holds a false panel between two salomonic columns. In the lower part of the tapestry we see the same technique, where the false tapestry falls beneath the architectural structure, covering part of the base.
A precursor to the Eucharist
This panel was conceived as a pair for the panel “The prophet Elias is comforted by the angel”. Both have the same size, fabric, composition and decorative elements, and both depict episodes which prefigure the Eucharist.
The creative process
The draft for this tapestry is kept in the Musée Bonnat in Bayonne, France. The model is kept in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the cartoon in the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. This series of works allows us to appreciate that the principal changes in this composition were made in the second model, with the scene now defined. There are very few changes between the second model and the tapestry itself.
The marks of the weaver and place of manufacture can be seen in the lower selvage: IAN RAES BdB. The monograms of Jacques Fobert and Hans Vervoert can be seen in the right-hand selvage.
Series The Triumph of the Eucharist
Third tapestry in the series
Model Peter Paul Rubens, 1626-1628
Manufacture Jan II Raes, Jacob II Geubels, Hans Vervoert, Jacques Fobert. Brussels, 1627-1632
Fabric Silk and wool
Size 485 x 415 cm
Location Monastery of the Descalzas Reales
Origin Collection of the Monastery of the Descalzas Reales
On display Hall of Tapestries
National Heritage Inv. 00610321