Theseus presents the head of the Minotaur to the King and Queen of Crete
This tapestry, the seventh of the series, shows a kneeling Theseus presenting the gruesome head of the Minotaur to King Minos and his wife Pasiphaë, who mothered the monster. The Minotaur´s horns can just about be seen. The Labyrinth, depicted in the centre, is being gazed upon with fear by a group of armed men and women, Theseus’ companions from the journey. The borders are the same as in the other pieces, and the name of the weaver is inscribed in the lower selvage: “IAN RAES LE IEVSNE”.
Theseus defeats the Minotaur
Following an exceptional fight, Theseus slayed the Minotaur and cut off its head. Having overcome this test, he was able to find his way out of the Labyrinth thanks to the thread which Ariadne had given him. He then presented himself and his trophy to Minos and Pasiphaë.
A dramatic presentation
No element of theatricality is missing in this dramatic scene. See how the curtain is pulled back, like a stage curtain before a performance. Minos’ horror is palpable and Pasiphaë – lest we forget that she was the mother of the Minotaur, engendering it after copulating with a bull – clearly shows her pain at the loss.
The Labyrinth of the Minotaur
The Labyrinth, in this depiction, appears as a dense, intricate city. In fact, it can be identified with the Great Palace of Minos in Knossos, with an extensive open square in the centre. The companions of Theseus gaze at it and seem to be deciding amongst themselves who shall enter the Labyrinth, unaware that the Athenian hero has already slain the Minotaur.
Series Story of Theseus
Seventh tapestry in the series
Model Anthonis Sallaert
Manufacture Jan Raes the Younger, Brussels, c. 1630
Fabric Silk and wool
Size 396 x 498 cm
Location Royal Palace of El Pardo
Origin Collection of Philip IV
On display Upper Gallery, Patio de las Austrias