The prophecies are fulfilled at the birth of Christ
This tapestry is larger than its partner in the series (it is 60cm wider), but it is arranged identically, with three principal scenes in the style of a triptych. The scenes are separated by elements of gothic architecture. Certain details, such as the border, are typical of the 16th century aesthetic. Others, such as the large number of characters in each scene, are typical of the previous century.
The large number of male characters in the central part is a clear reference to the most important Messianic Prophecies. Beneath the ribbed vaulting of a church, the Virgin sits under a baldaquin with the Child in her bosom. To her left is Moses, the staff in his hand prefiguring the Cross, and with him is an angel with the symbols of the Passion. The old man at her feet, Jesse, holds a tree, a symbol of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Several female figures from the Old Testament, including Naomi, Esther, Judith and Ruth, along with male characters such as Aaron and King David, accompany the Virgin.
The Order of the Golden Fleece
Gideon, a warrior and judge of the Hebrew people, appears in armour opposite Jesse. He is showing the fleece which miraculously absorbed all the morning dew, leaving the ground around it dry, as told in Judges 6, 36-40. The use of this story in artworks created in the Low Countries has a secondary meaning alongside the traditional biblical one. It refers to the Order of the Golden Fleece, an order of chivalry which originally identified with the mythological story of Jason. Due to the religious context of the period, the order soon assimilated it with the biblical story of Gideon.
The Fall and Salvation
Flanking the principal scene in the upper part of the tapestry are two banners featuring Adam and Eve, ashamed. The inclusion of these figures alludes to the Fall of Man, who would not be redeemed to Grace until the coming of the Messiah, born of Mary. Thus, the side parts feature stories from the life of Jesus: on the left, his meeting with the Samaritanwoman, who is carrying a jug of water; a character holding a fish on a plate, symbolising the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand; and a group in the upper part which appears to portray miracles. On the right, Christ saves the adulterous woman from imminent stoning (made clear by a character holding a stone in his hand), while in the upper part various onlookers gaze on.
A less sumptuous copy
A copy of this tapestry is preserved in the cathedral of La Seo in Zaragoza, although in inverted form. It is smaller, measuring 340 x 400cm, and has less gold than Joanna I´s original, although a copy of the cartoon was undoubtedly used to weave it.
Series Episodes from the Life of the Virgin
First tapestry in the series
Models Attributed to Jan von Roome (or van Brussel)
Manufacture Pieter van Aelst, Brussels, c. 1502-1504
Fabric Gold, silver, silk and wool
Size 356 x 440 cm
Location Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso
Origin The Collection of Joanna I
On display Tapestry Museum, Sala de Isabel la Católica y Juana de Castilla
National Heritage Inv. n. 10005808