The call to the labourers (La llamada a los trabajadores)
The scene is a retelling of the evangelical text of the parable of labourers working in a vineyard, in which the Pater familias is God the Father and the vineyard is humankind. The labourers have been chosen before the arrival of the Messiah, and are required by the Father to work towards Redemption. Together with the tapestry ‘The payment of the denarius’, they comprise the series of one of the best-known yet least-represented parables. Framed by a border of 25 cm, they still keep their full colouring despite its age.
The owner of the vineyard looks for laborers
In the centre, the lord appears again at the third hour (‘egres[us] circa hora[m] tertia[m]’, says the sign) and invites other labourers, represented by Noah and his family, clearly alluding to the vineyards grown by the patriarch after the Deluge.
A sign on the border at the top clarifies that ‘the owner came back to look for labourers at the sixth and ninth hours’, which is represented by Charity and Work leading Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the way pointed by the Pater familias. In this other scene, a blindfolded woman carrying the Tables of the Law refers to Judaism (which is made more explicit by the inscription ‘Vet[us] Testame[n]tu[m]’).
The lower right side shows the last call for labourers, at the eleventh hour. The owner comes across a group made up by the prophets, identified by their names — Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah amongst others — and asks them: ‘Why are you idle?’ A youth dressed in white points at the upper scene, in which some vintagers carry clusters of grapes to a wine press. Christ appears there and, as a symbol of charity, sheds plenty of blood in the barrels, from which a pope and a cardinal take out wine, in an allegory of Redemption.
Saint Mathew and Saint Jerome
Except for this mystic wine press, which was however frequent in the Middle Ages, the rest of the text is a retelling of the parable of the labourers in the vineyard (Matthew 20, 1-16), probably based on Saint Jerome’s explanation, which was taken up by others such as Gregory the Great. The Pater familias is God the Father and the vineyard is humankind. The labourers are the ones chosen before the arrival of the Messiah and, regardless of their closeness in time to Jesus as signified by the different hours, they are required by the Father to work towards Redemption.
Series The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard
First tapestry in the series
Manufacture Brussels, Pieter van Aelst’s workshops? c. 1500
Fabric Silk and wool, 6 warps per cm
Size 410 x 620 cm
Location Cathedral of Zamora, Cathedral Museum
Origen Arrived at the cathedral before 1558
On display Cathedral Museum