The four evangelists
The young Saint John
The four evangelists are depicted with different postures. On the left of the scene, we see the youngest, Saint John, accompanied by an eagle and carrying a chalice with snakes. This attribute comes from the apocryphal tale of the Golden Legend, which mentions the cup with a poisonous potion. Saint John was able to drink the potion after making the sign of the cross over it.
The evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke
Beside him, almost in the centre of the composition, Saint Matthew is presented as an older man with a white beard; he carried in his hands a large open book, an allusion to his gospel, while the angel, his symbol, points out one of the passages of his writing. Beside him, with his back to the viewer, is Saint Mark, walking beside a lion and also carrying his gospel. Finally, hardly even showing his bust, is Saint Luke, behind whom we see the bull’s head which is his symbol.
The defence of the Eucharist and symbolism
The presence of the four evangelists in the iconographic program alludes to their role as authors of the account of the Last Supper, the moment when the Eucharist was established. In the lower part we see a large scallop shell, the typical symbol of baptism. To the left, we see a cornucopia full of fruit, an allusion to the abundance of good things which originate from the sacraments. On the right, we see a dolphin, a marine animal which in Christian iconography refers to the Resurrection. Both figures have also been interpreted as symbols of the sea and the earth, showing the universality of the Gospels.
A tapestry within a tapestry
The false tapestry hangs betweentwo solomonic columns, held up by two angels and a rope which is hooked to three rings, in turn attached to large lion masks. A garland of fruits, in which we can identify bunches of grapes, plums, artichokes and cobs of corn, decorates the upper part of the false tapestry.
The creative process
The draft is kept in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; the model in a private collection in England; and the cartoon in the Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida.
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
Eleventh tapestry in the series
Model Peter Paul Rubens, 1626-1628
Manufacture Jan II Raes, Hans Vervoert, Jacques Fobert, Brussels, 1627-1632
Fabric Silk and wool
Size 487 x 550 cm
Location Monastery of the Descalzas Reales
Origin Collection of the Monastery of the Descalzas Reales
On display Hall of Tapestries
National Heritage Inv. 00610322