Joash is informed that Gideon has destroyed the altar of Baal

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Joash is informed that Gideon has destroyed the altar of Baal
Gideon does not appear in the foreground of this tapestry; his father Joash does instead, facing a crowd who ask about the destruction of the temple of Baal and the felling of the sacred woods. Both of these events are narrated in subsequent tapestries. The distribution of the figures in an area full of vegetation is similar to that of the other pieces, as is the wide border framing it. The weaver’s mark can be seen in the lower corner of the right-hand selvage.

The altar of Baal is destroyed

According to the Old Testament (Judges 6, 25-32), after the angel visited Gideon the Lord said to him: “Tear down your father’s altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” God refused to tolerate the idolatry into which the Sons of Israel had fallen and ordered his chosen one to destroy the altar to the false god Baal. Gideontook ten men and carried out the divine order “but because he was afraid of his family and the townspeople, he did it at night rather than in the daytime.” This scene is depicted in the central upper part of the tapestry: Gideon is watching how his servants have pulled down the idol and continue to destroy the altar. On the left, we see the moment in which the second part of the order is carried out: the felling of the Asherah next to the altar of Baal. Asherah, the Phoenician goddess of vegetation, was the feminine counterpart of Baal, and was depicted as a tree trunk as a symbol of vegetation. Gideon’s men felled the sacred tree and we see them moving the trunks which will serve to build an altar. This altar is to be used to offer “your father’s fattened bull […] in a holocaust with the wood of the Asherahwhich you have felled.” This episode is visible in the upper right-hand part of the tapestry, expressed with great faithfulness to the biblical account.

Joash defends his son Gideon’s actions

Rather than being the focus of the tapestry, the scenes in which God’s orders are fulfilled are actually relegated to the background. Instead, the main focus is the moment when the Israelites, informed about what has happened, present themselves to Joash saying: “Bring out your son. He must die, because he has broken down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole beside it.” Gideon’s father, who is seen here seated, refused. Furthermore, he pointed out that if Baal were a real god, he would avenge the affront. It was clear he had not done so. “Because of this, they gave Gideon the name Jerub-Baal that day, saying: ‘Let Baal contend with him.’”

Series Story of Gideon

Second tapestry in the series

Model Attributed to Maerten van Heemskerck

Manufacture Frans Geubels, Brussels, third quarter of the sixteenth century

Fabric Silk and wool

Size 371 x 403 cm

Location Diocesan Museum of the Cathedral of Albarracín (Teruel)

Origin Bequest of Bishop Vicente Roca de la Serna. In the cathedral since 1608.


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