The Virtues challenge the Vices when Christ begins his ministry (Las Virtudes desafían a los Vicios cuando Cristo comienza su ministerio)
The sixth tapestry in the series represents a powerful struggle between Vices and Virtues, which the latter win thanks to the Messiah. As in the other three tapestries belonging to the cathedral, it displays the escutcheons of the donor. The nine scenes of the tapestry foretell the arrival of Christ.
Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One
The nine scenes are all related to the inscription shown on the seated character on the right: ‘ACCINGERE GLADIO TVO SUPER FEMUR TVVM. POTENTISSIME’ (Psalm 44, 4). Although there are several interpretations, Christian tradition takes it for the engagement of the King Messiah with Israel, that is, an event foretelling the arrival of Christ.
The messianic character is noticeable from the first scene, on the left, in which Jesus receives Saint John’s baptism. We find on top the beheading of the Baptist, right when the executioner hands his head over to Salome, while his beheaded body still kneels. His death is merely earthly though, and we immediately see the saint in Abraham’s bosom, where several characters rejoice at his arrival.
John the Baptist, the forerunner, gives way in the following scenes to the Messiah. The central part shows Christ resurrecting Lazarus in the presence of some disciples labelled with their name and those of the sisters of the resurrected, Mary and Martha (although the name of the latter is confused with Mary Magdalene’s). Above this group, Jesus appears with the adulterous woman in an open architecture, and Judas Iscariot appears on the right, accompanied by Envy and Greed, as their names read, receiving the money of the priests for turning Jesus in. The two scenes in the top right part represent Christ Triumphant, dressed as a warrior, and once again Abraham’s bosom, which the just are leaving after the sacrifice of the Saviour.
Charity challenges Envy
The cycle is completed by the scene in the lower right part, in which Charity challenges Envy, as identified by their names. Charity, standing triumphantly, wears a shield on its back showing the pelican, a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice to redeem Man, while a seated Envy lays her hand on a broken sceptre, an allegory of her defeat.
There is only one other complete copy like this, in the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, which belonged to the collection of the Duke of Alba until its sale in the 19th century.
Series Human Redemption or Vices and Virtues
Sixth tapestry in the series (third of those kept in Palencia)
Manufacture Brussels’ workshops, c. 1510
Size 425 x 800 cm
Fabric Silk and wool, 7 warps per cm
Location Cathedral of Palencia
Origin A bequest by Bishop Fonseca, 1527
Exhibition Chapter House