The Defenders of the Eucharist
Saint Thomas, Defender of the Eucharist
In the centre we see two saints who were notable for their defence of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Saint Thomas Aquinas wears the Dominican habit, and holds his magnum opus, Summa Theologica, in his left hand, while he uses his right hand to point to on high, where the Holy Spirit is to be found. On his chest a radiant sun hangs from a chain, a symbol alluding the enlightening power of Eucharistic doctrine.
Saint Clare, a tribute to the patron
Beside him, we see Saint Clare, dressed in the Franciscan habit, holding a monstrance in her hand which recalls the monstrance held by the Church in the central panel of this series. This is the traditional attribute of Saint Clare, a reference to the miracle which took place in Assisi when, thanks to her miraculous intercession, the convent was freed from the Saracens’ attack. The saint’s face is a portrait of Isabella Clara Eugenia, something which cannot be seen in the first paintings for this tapestry, but which can be seen in the final cartoon.
The Holy Church Fathers
Within this processional group we also find the four Church Fathers. On the right-hand side, beside one of the columns framing the scene, we see Saint Augustin, Archbishop of Hippo. Beside him, with his back to the viewer, is Saint Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan and, finally, Pope Saint Gregory the Great. On the other side of the scene, we see Saint Jerome, dressed in a purple cape and a cardinal’s hat.
The group is completed by the figure of Saint Norbert, a saint known for his defence of the Eucharist, wearing the white habit of the Premonstratensian Order, which he founded. Beneath his robes, he clutches the monstrance which contains the Host, his principal attribute.
A tapestry within a tapestry
Two angels attempt to hang up the false tapestry, using a garland of fruits, between two columns. The columns combine the Doric and Tuscan styles, as we see both banded and fluted shafts. In the central part we see the head of an angel flanked by two trumpets, symbolizing the wide dissemination of texts written by divine inspiration. The objects arranged in the plinth allude to these texts: a lamp, open books, an inkwell and quills.
The creative process
All three stages of the creative process for this tapestry have been preserved. The first draft is in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, while the model is in the Museo del Prado and the cartoon in the Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida.
The marks of the weaver and place of manufacture can be seen in the lower selvage: IAN RAES BdB. The monograms of Jacques Fobert and Hans Vervoert can be seen in the right-hand selvage
Series The Triumph of the Eucharist
Tenth tapestry in the series
Model Peter Paul Rubens, 1626-1628
Manufacture Jan II Raes, Hans Vervoert, Jacques Fobert, Brussels, 1627-1632
Fabric Silk and wool
Size 500 x 492 cm
Location Monastery of the Descalzas Reales
Origin Collection of the Monastery of the Descalzas Reales
On display Hall of Tapestries
National Heritage Inv. 00618366