Temperance (La Templanza)

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Temperance (La Templanza)
Temperance, opposed to Wrath, is one of the four cardinal Virtues aiming at making Man live with moderation, with will prevailing over passion. It was formulated by Plato, and discussed also by Aristotle and, in the Middle Ages, by St Thomas. Recalled in the Old Testament, this moral virtue is important in Christianity, since it appeals to measure over the uncontrolled appetites, such as in eating, drinking and sexual relations.

Watering wine down

The centre of the tapestry shows a feminine figure pouring water from a jar into a goblet. This personifies Temperance, which is commonly represented watering wine down to reduce the intoxicating effects of alcohol, thus appealing to moderation in drinking.

Temperance and Tobias

The rest of the figures refer to Temperance through the story of Tobias. This is a somewhat stretched reference, however, since Tobias’ principal virtue is Patience.

Tobias—actually, Tobit, regardless of the Old Testament's book being called Tobias, which caused confusion between him and his son, who was indeed called so — was deported to Nineveh along with the rest of his people in Assyrian times, but managed to keep virtuous in the face of calamities. This scene is shown on the upper right corner. Tobit was blind in his last few years and he is represented as such in the foreground, even if TOBÍAS is written on the sleeve of his clothes. A woman approaches him with a lamb in her hands, which symbolizes Patience while also alluding to the kid his wife Anna brought him. Being a generous man, Tobit took care of his needy countrymen by sharing his goods and, because of his virtues, God sent the archangel Raphael to accompany his son Tobias when he went to collect a debt. Tobias married Sarah, who was possessed by a demon and had seen her seven former husbands die before marriage could be consummated, as shown on the top right scene. The archangel cast out the demon and Tobias and Sarah prayed for grace in the temple, as shown on the top part of the tapestry. The end of the story, when Tobit recovers sight, is not included, however.


A banner on the top part reads TEMPERANTIA AFFECTVS COERCET ET COHIBET APPETITVM IN TVRPITER APPETITIS (Temperance inhibits and represses shameful passions).

Series The Seven Virtues

Model based on Michiel Coxcie

Manufacture Brussels. Manufacture by Frans Geubels, c. 1560-1570

Fabric Silk and wool

Size 330 x 320 cm

Location Cathedral of Burgos

Origin A bequest to the cathedral in 1599 by Bishop Cristóbal Vela de Acuña

On display St James's chapel (museum)


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