Infamy

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Infamy
This is the sixth tapestry in the series, but the ninth – and last – in the iconographic progression. It depicts the procession of Infamy, accompanied by vices, sins, and a group of historical, biblical and mythological characters who make up Infamy’s cortège. In the lower right-hand corner, an author provides us with the moral conclusion of this series.

The procession of Infamy

Infamy sits in the centre of this dynamic composition, represented as a semi-naked woman carried on a carriage amid a grotesque procession. Scandal whips her, and Confusion ties her hands behind the column. At her feet, a naked woman is tied to the same carriage, and two men are also tied up. At the front, we see Sulla, and at the back, Gaius Marius; these are the two men responsible for the Roman civil wars of the first century BC. Four satyrs are depicted on horseback, playing flutes and pipes, pulling the carriage. The names of the four horses inform us of the paths to Infamy: Bad Temper (Pravus Animus), Depraved Life (Corrupta Vita), Pusillanimity (Pusillanimitas) and Dissoluteness (Dissolvtio), which leads people to vice.


Vices, sins and the murderess Tullia

As in the other tapestries in the series, we find two characters in the upper corners, women personifying vices: Inconstancy on the left and Foolishness on the right. Next to these vices, a selection of sins are depicted through masculine figures who lead the cortège on the right: Anger, Libido, Desire and Malice. The procession is closed from behind by a carriage in which Tullia sits. Tullia killed her father, King Servius Tullius, to win Tarquinius Superbus’ love. Servius Tullius is depicted underneath the wheels of the carriage, and the character pulling the carriage may be Tarquinius Superbus. The Roman politician and conspirator Lucius Sergius Catalinus, who plotted a conspiracy against Rome, watches them.


The cortège of the infamous

The procession of the carriage of Infamy takes place opposite a building made up of two galleries located in the upper part of the tapestry. Very many characters, whose identity we do not know, are depicted, although the inscription tells us that it is the building of Disgrace: ignominy, opprobrium and dishonour. The Assyrian king Sardanapalus, who lived an indulgent life and died in a great orgy,is thrown down from this building into the cortège, just behind the carriage. This large cortège is formed of a group of several biblical, historical and mythological characters known for their vices and sins. In the lower part of the tapestry, from left to right, we see the following characters: the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate falling from a horse, beaten by Death who drives a medieval lance into his heart; next, two masculine personifications of Mockery (Derisio) and Cowardice (Ignavia); behind them, Cain murdering Abel; and, finally, Queen Jezabel, trampled by one of the horses pulling the carriage of Infamy, and the Roman Emperor Nero, who pierces himself with his own sword. In the middle part of the tapestry, again from left to right, we see the diviner and rebel prophet Balaam in the background, surrounded by a group of women, opposite Judas who is depicted hanging from a tree and disemboweled. Beneath them, in front of Tullia’s carriage, we can identify several characters amongst those walking, including the biblical queen Athaliah, Queen Jezabel’s daughter, who murdered all of her siblings. We can also identify four mythological characters: the Greek king and murderer Atreus; Byblis,the daughter of Melitus, who fell in love with her twin brother Caunus; Myrrha (also known as Smyrna), who gave birth to Adonis after having intercourse with her father Theias; and, just below, Pasiphaë, mother of the Cretan Minotaur. Within the cortège which processes in front of the carriage of Infamy, in the middle part, we see the tyrant and cruel Egyptian King Busiris, who was killed by Hercules, and the mythological character Scylla of Megara, who betrayed her own father to obtain King Minos’ love.


The Author

In the lower right-hand part we see a male character, who we know to be the Author thanks to the inscription. He is depicted at his desk, which is typical of the period with its manuscripts bound in leather lining the shelves and the its writing instruments, scissors, rolls and papers attached to the wall with tape. The author is flicking through the pages of a manuscript sitting on his table, holding a quill in his other hand, while a dog sleeps at his feet.This character provides us with the moral conclusion of this tapestry series, written in Latin on the cartouche which appears just above him. The scholar Emile Mâle asserts that this Author is a depiction of Jean Lemaire de Belges, the most famous man of letters in the Brussels court of Margaret of Austria, governor of the Low Countries and guardian of Emperor Charles V.


Legends

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:

Rumpit honorisparos levis inconstantia nixus

Et se molliculis implicat illecebris

[Light Inconstancy breaks honour-bearing efforts

And involves herself in soft allurements]

Sordida famosis infamia vecta quadrigis

Que sint criminibus premia cesa docet

[Filthy Infamy, borne by her notorious four-horse chariot,

Teaches which rewards are lost through crime]

Vecors stulticie petulantia spernit honestu[m]

Et ruit effreno crimen in omne pede

[Insane wantonness spurns honesty with folly

And rushes into every crime with unbridled haste]

The Latin inscription in the cartouche above the author reads as follows:

Ergo perpetuus si tibi vis honor

Fama acnobilitas clara refulgeat

Nec fortuna sua te laceret rota

Vel famosa notis improbitas suis

Fac pictura probo que docet ordine

Fac quinis ratio sensibus imperat

Et prudens recolas horcus homo deus

Qua seuus fragilis quaq, severus est

Jam pressis vicium calcibus obterens

Qunctas excucies nequicias procul

Mox astrea vago clarior hespero

Et virtus reliquis cincta sororibus

Sic ornare animun se venient tuu

Quod dignun omgenis te facient bonis

Ac Desideri compos eris. Vale.

[So, if you are given strength, may perpetual Honour,

Fame and renowned Nobility shine brightly,

And neither Fortuna tear you with her wheel,

Nor infamous Depravity with her marks:

Act like an image which teaches by honourable order

Act so that Reason commands the five senses,

And prudently reflect on Death, Man, and God,

How fierce, fragile and severe they are

Now crushing evil with the pressure of your heels

May you drive out all wickedness far away.

Soon the virgin Astraea, more brilliant than Evening Star

And Virtue amidst her other sisters,

Will come thus to bestow honour on your heart

To make you worthy of all kinds of praise

And you will partake of your desire. Farewell.]

Finally, the inscription above Infamy comes from Proverbs 18, 3, and says:

Sequitur peccatorem ignominia et opprobrium. Pverb.18

[Ill repute and disgrace follow the sinner. Proverbs.18]


Series The Honours

Sixth 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 495 x 850 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. 10026279



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