Vices lead Man to sin (Los Vicios conducen al Hombre al pecado)
This is the first tapestry among those kept in Palencia belonging to the Human Redemption series (it is actually the second of the series; the first one is ‘The Creation of the World and the Fall of Man’, of which copies are preserved in several museums). Woven in wool and silk with bright colouring, it displays Vices leading Man to sin. More than 60 figures, some of them with their names, crowd the space, which is covered with vegetation wherever there is not enough room for characters. Three escutcheons of the donor are sewn on top of the tapestry, indicating that the bishop must have bought them already made.
Vices lead man to sin
Due to the imprecise naming of the series of four pieces donated by Bishop Fonseca to the cathedral of Palencia, which at the time of their delivery were identified as containing ‘stories of the Old and New Testaments’, it has been argued that this one, showing how Vices lead Man to sin, would not belong to the set. However, the series focuses on the Redemption of Man, who after the Original Sin is compelled by Vices to breach the Law of God, a situation which can only be overcome thanks to Christ. The interpretative key is provided by an inscription in a phylactery worn by one character in the lower left end: ‘[E]ICE ILLOS A FACIE MEA’ (Take them away from my presence, Jeremiah 15, 1), which refers back to the disappointment of God with the behaviour of Man, something which can only be altered through Redemption.
Succession of scenes
Several scenes follow each other in two different registers without a clear sequencing. The Trinity appears on the top left part represented by three characters, all alike, who are worshiped by angels. In front of this group, the struggle between Good and Evil to which Man is bound is represented by two women, one looking mild, the other defiant. Man is referred to in several scenes with the generic name Homo (that is, humanity). For example, accompanied by Guilt, he is expelled by a feminine character blandishing a sword; he is threatened with a spear by a figure labelled Temptation, at the same time as another figure and a woman seek to hit him with some branches and a small flag; or he is obliged to earn his living by working with a spade. In the top part, a woman, Pride, rests in a throne surrounded by all the Vices, and on the right Lust can be seen in a building from which Reason is being expelled. This is a direct allusion to the Fall of Man being motivated by lustful behaviour, as was believed at the time.
As was the custom, several replicas of this panel were made. One is kept in the Tapestry Museum of La Seo, Zaragoza, and another in the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, originally from the Cathedral of Toledo.
Series Human Redemption or Vices and Virtues
Second tapestry in the series (first 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
On display Chapter House