The Seven Virtues Series (Las Siete Virtudes)
Whereas in the 15th century Virtues used to be shown in opposition to Vices, which they always successfully overcame, in the Renaissance they were represented individually, stressing their values per se. In general, the cycles were comprised of the Seven Virtues: the theological – Faith, Hope and Charity – and the cardinal – Justice, Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance. Some complete series have been preserved, such as the one at the Museum of Fine Arts in Vienna and this series at Burgos.
The series of the Seven Virtues was a bequest from Bishop Cristóbal Vela de Acuña. Like most of the tapestries belonging to the Cathedral of Burgos, these were also donated by one of its bishops. Cristóbal Vela de Acuña (who died in November 1599) arrived at this see in 1580. He set down "the donation and gratification for now and ever after of my Tapestry of the Seven Virtues which is in seven pieces..." A few months later, his executors fulfilled this wish and the tapestries were used to cover the walls of the Chapter House. They remained there until the late 20th century, when the room was rearranged to display paintings. The set was removed and, after a restoration process, just two of them – Justice and Temperance – are shown nowadays, hanging at a remarkable height in St James's Chapel, recently turned into a cathedral museum.
The mark B▼B on the lower selvage proves that they were manufactured in Brussels, and the monogram on the right selvage clarifies that they came from Frans Geubels' workshops. These tapestries are very similar to those kept at the Kunsthistorisches of Vienna, although their borders are different. Since we know that those at Vienna were woven following cartoons by the painter Michiel Coxcie, it is quite likely that the series at Burgos was also made from cartoons copied from these.
These tapestries break away from the custom of representing Virtues in opposition to Vices, evident in the tapestries on the Redemption of Man, a bequest by Bishop Fonseca, which are also kept in the Cathedral of Burgos.
T. López Mata, La catedral de Burgos (2nd ed.), Burgos, 1966.
J. Matesanz del Barrio, “La colección de tapices flamencos de la catedral de Burgos en la Edad Moderna”, Boletín de la Institución Fernán González, Vol. 236 (2008), pp. 111-131.
Series The Seven Virtues
Models Cartoons based on Michiel Coxcie
Manufacture Frans Geubels, Brussels, c. 1560-1570
Fabric Silk and wool
Location St James's chapel (museum) of the cathedral of Burgos
Origin A bequest to the cathedral in 1559 by Bishop Cristóbal Vela de Acuña