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This second tapestry was chosen to be sent to Spain in 1525 as a ‘taster’ of the series, in order to persuade Emperor Charles V to buy the whole set. Honour, to whom the panel is dedicated, appears personified as a Supreme Judge who decides whether individuals will be admitted or rejected from the Palace of Honour.

The Court of Honour

In the upper part of the tapestry is the Court of Honour. In the centre, sitting on a throne, Honour holds the Sceptre and the Imperial Orb. To his left and right, Virtue and Victory, both of whom represent the division of Honour, crown him with a laurel wreath. At his feet, the personifications of Reverence and Majesty are engaged in conversation. Two of Honour’s paladins hold up the drapery which allows us to see those who sit in the Court of Honour. In the corners, two angels with trumpets symbolise the subdivision of Honour, and the ways in which Honour is obtained: Nature, on the left, refers to natural Virtue, and Writing, on the right, provides a means of immortalising Victory. In the lower part of the court, a notary reads out the names of those who have been accepted into the Court of Honour and those who have been rejected from it.

The members of the Court of Honour

Honour, as King and Supreme Judge, appears surrounded by a group of men and women who have achieved the rank of members of the Court. This group is formed of fourteen illustrious women and ten kings and governers, models of chilvary, who appear crowned with their weapons and paladins in the upper part of the building. Sitting on the left of the character of Reverence, we see (from left to right) the famous knight of the First Crusade Godfrey of Bouillon, Saint Louis of France, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II (Saint Henry), the great Emperor Charlemagne and the Roman Emperor Constantine. To the right of Majesty, we can identify (from left to right) King David, the Roman Emperor Octavian Augustus, Abraham, Alexander the Great and the Holy Roman Emperor Otto. The seats in the lower part of the Court have been reserved for distinguished women, biblical heroines, queens and princesses. From left to right, they are: the medieval heroine Florence of Rome, Margaret (possibly Margaret of Austria, aunt of Charles V), Isabella (possibly Isabella the Catholic, grandmother of Charles V), the Roman Lucretia, Queen Tomyris, the famous Assyrian queen Semiramis, and Saint Helena, who sits beneath her son, Emperor Constantine. Behind the notary we see the biblical figures Sarah, Rebecca, Esther, Deborah, Judith, the Queen of Sheba and a woman called Asia. Furthermore, other characters approach the Court via the two staircases of the stand. These staircases link the tapestry to the previous one in the series’ iconographic progression, Faith, and the following one, Fame. On both staircases, two women – personifications of Triumph and Dignity – place laurel wreaths to the blessed. On the left-hand staircase we see the Kings of Judah Josiah and Jehoshaphat, the biblical Azariah (Abednego) and the Roman general Sertorius. On the right-hand staircase, we can identiy Joshua, the Roman consul Marcus Atilius Regulus, the king of Alba Longa Proca, the Roman Emperor Titus and the Spartan lawmaker Lycurgus.

Those who are rejected by Honour

A large group of people is spread over the lower part of the tapestry. They are characterised by having lived without honour, and some of them attempt to climb up to the stand, such as the Roman Emperors Caligula (in the centre, with the gorgon Medusa at his feet) and Nero, beneath whom the staircase breaks on the right-hand side. We can also see four horsemen, some of whom are falling from the horses. They are, from left to right: the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate, the Roman King Tarquinius Superbus, the famous Roman soldier Mark Anthony and the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse. On the left-hand side, we see a couple, Paris and Helena of Troy, while on the right-hand side Cruelty grabs at a woman named Tulia to stop her climbing up to the stand, since she asassainated her father to be able to be with her lover, King Tarquinius Superbus. Other well-known characters whom we can identify on the right-hand side are the prophet Mohammed, Queen Clytemnestra of Mycene and the Cretan Princess Phaedra, mother of Hippolytus.


Three banners with Latin inscriptions are set into the border, which is made up of flowers and fruits on a dark background with interspesed metallic forms. The texts of these banners, from left to right, read:

Quisquis ut ad claru[m] studiosus sacandat honore[m]

Natura assiduis provocat alma tubis

[Generous Nature with constant trumpets calls

All those with honour to ascend to Fame]

Candida quos misit virtus, honor arce receptans

Laureat: ambitio quos tulit inde fugat

[Those who were sent by radiant Virtue, Honour receives and crowns in the citadel;

Those who were inspired by Ambition, he casts out and makes flee]

Sedulo docta iubet modulis scriptura disertis

Ne quis honoriparos tardet inire lares

[Learned Scripture ordains with eloquent measures

That no one should delay their entry into the House of Honour]

Series The Honours

Second tapestry in the series

Model Cartoonists from the circle of Bernard van Orley and Jan Gossaert, called of Mabuse

Manufacture Pieter van Aelst, Brussels, c.1550

Fabric Gold, silver, silk and wool

Size 500 x 1000 cm

Location Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso

Origin Collection of Emperor Charles V

On display Hall of Honours, Tapestry Museum

National Heritage Inv. n. 10026277


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