Tomyris orders the head of Cyrus to be dipped in a vessel of blood

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Tomyris orders the head of Cyrus to be dipped in a vessel of blood
This sixth tapestry ends the series and is also the largest in the series. The number of figures depicted is far larger than in any of the other pieces, and their arrangement in space is more successful. The battle between the Persians and Massagetae is taking place in the background – an anachronism, since Cyrus was shown dead in the previous panel. In the foreground, we see Queen Tomyris, who, after decapitating Cyrus’ corpse, ordered his head to dipped in a vessel of blood.

Tomyris gives Cyrus a blood bath

The death of Cyrus and the defeat of his army were not quite enough for the queen of the Massagetae, Tomyris, whose name appears written on the trimming of her tunic: THOMIRIS. She ordered the corpse to be found, so she could decapitate it and put Cyrus’ head in a wineskin – a vessel, in the tapestry – saying “I will quench your thirst for blood, and make good my promise” (Herotodus, Book I, CCXIV). This proclamation refers to the threat she made previously to Cyrus: to quench his thirst for blood if he did not return her son and leave her territories.

An exchange of arrows

Sources are not precise about the det<a name="_GoBack"></a>ails of the battle, but Herodotus claims that the two armies began their battle using bows, until “with all the arrows used up they fought hand-to-hand with lances and daggers”. In the tapestry, the combatants are shown firing their bows, and QueenTomyris herself carries one, as does the general who is putting the crowned head of Cyrus in the vessel. Furthermore, different groups of warriors display their lances, a clear reference that they were also used in the victory.

Series Story of Cyrus

Sixth tapestry of the series

Models Anonymous, based on Michiel Coxcie

Manufacture Antwerp, c. 1590

Fabric Silk and wool

Size 339 x 529 cm

Location Royal Palace of Aranjuez

On display Hall of the King’s Halberdiers

Origin Documented in the royal collections since the time of Charles III


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