From tapestries
Jump to: navigation, search

This tapestry, the seventh in the series and the second in the iconographic progression, is devoted to Prudence. The character of Prudence is seen debating with Reason and Fiath about the best way to create a new, more virtuous man. Furthermore, we see the Liberal Arts building the carriage of Prudence, which will carry her to Virtue in the following tapestry.

Prudence’s throne

In the centre of a richly decorated building which resembles an old theatre, we see Prudence sitting on a throne, with a coiled snake in her hand. Prudence speaks with two other virtues who are present on the same stage: on her left, Faith, and on her right, Reason, who is depicted showing Prudence a triple-mirror, a symbol of Memory, Intelligence and Providence, who will lead Prudence to the past, the present, and the future. We also see a character on each side of the stage holding a standard with the symbols of Prudence. The figure on the left is the biblical prophetess Deborah, whose standard shows the head of Janus (the double-headed Roman god of gates and doors, beginnings, and ends) surrounded by a coiled snake. On the right we see another biblical character: Judas Maccabeus, whose standard depicts the symbol of a dolphin wound around an anchor, which means “more haste, less speed”.

Prudence’s virtues and her carriage

At the foot of the stage we can see a group of seven women, all dressed in luxurious clothing, who represent the seven virtues which make up Prudence. From left to right, these are: Intelligence, holding bellows; Caution, with a convex mirror in which we see a fox with a monk’s cloak; Circumspection, who holds a bag of money and a compass; Intellect, with a caduceus (the winged staff with two snakes coiled around it, a symbol of the god Mercury) and a book; Providence, with armour and a lance, an owl on her head and a glove in her left hand; Docility, with a book and a handful of staffs; and, finally, Memory, who holds what seems to be a heart in her left hand, although in reality the symbol of memory is the stomach, since it is the organ which absorbs the lessons of the past. Finally, in the central and lower part of the tapestry we see other women, similarly luxuriously dressed, who are manufacturing wheels and the carriage which Prudence will use. These are the seven Liberal Arts, whose symbols are carried by angels while they work on the construction. From left to right, we can see Grammar, holding an axe to cut a log of wood, and an angel carrying his book and whips behind the pilaster; Astronomy, dressed in red, whose symbols – the celestial sphere and the sextant – are held by an angel sitting above the pilaster; Geometry, dressed in blue, accompanied by an angel holding his compass and set square; Rhetoric, dressed in green, whose horn is being played by an angel; Arithmetic, also in green, accompanied by an unbridled horse and an angel in front of him doing calculations on a tablet with an awl; Music, who is inserting an axle into a wheel with a hammer, and by the left-hand pilaster we see an angel playing music and two instruments; and, finally, Logic (Dialectic) dressed in blue and holding an axe, whose corresponding angel holds flowers.

The five senses

In the left-hand part of the tapestry, we see Prudence receiving five horses from Nature, watched over by King Solomon. The horses, who will pull the carriage, are dressed in finery with five angels mounted upon them. They are sent by the god Jupiter to Nature and bear the names of the five senses: Sight, Hearing, Taste, Smell and Touch. In the upper right-hand corner, we see Wisdom talking to Prudence, telling her what she must do. Underneath this, Prudence points out where the carriage is to Reason, who sits upon the five horses representing the senses. In the right-hand part of the building, Harmony invites Prudence to mount the carriage, which is now ready to depart.

Abraham’s family

In both of the lower corners we see members of Abraham’s family watching Prudence debating with Faith and Reason, as well as the construction of the carriage. On the right, we see Abraham himself, his wife Sarah, and Joseph; on the left, Jacob and Rachel. Guy Delmarcel asserts that these biblical characters could be a reference to the Habsburg dynasty, identifying Abraham with Emperor Maximilian I.


Three banners with Latin inscriptions are set into the border, which is made up of flowers and fruits on a dark background with interspesed metallic forms. The texts of these banners, from left to right, read:

Quinque receptat Equos grato prudencia vultu

Quos physis a magno detulit alma Jove

[Prudence with a smiling face receives five horses

Which bountiful Nature has brought from mighty Jove]

Quid Deus horcus homo saga speculante Phronesis

Fabricat aonius plaustra superba chorus

[While Phronesis [Wisdom], the wise woman, ponders upon God, Hell and Man,

the Aonian choir [the liberal arts] constructs superb chariots]

Ipsa triu[m]phalem nectit concordiam cursum

Et ratio admissos sub igua cogit equos

[Harmony herself fastens together the triumphal chariot

And Reason forces the unbridled horses under the yoke]

The three inscriptions in the upper part of Prudence’s throne read, from left to right:

Timor domini principium sapientie

[The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge] (Proverbs 1, 7)

Preterita recolo presentia ordino futura prevideo

[I gather up the past, I arrange the Present, I foresee the future]

Si Deum timeres nunquam in manibus ad mala ducentes incideres

[If you fear God, never shall you fall into the hands of those who lead to evil]

Serie Los Honores

Séptimo paño de la serie

Modelo Cartonistas del círculo de Bernard van Orley y Jan Gossaert, llamado de Mabuse

Manufactura Pieter van Aelst, Bruselas, 1550

Composición Oro, plata, seda y lana

Medidas 490 x 820 cm

Situación Palacio de la Granja de San Ildefonso, Segovia

Procedencia Colección del emperador Carlos V

Exposición Sala de los Honores. Museo de Tapices

Patrimonio Nacional Inv. 10026283


Personal tools