Astyages recognizes Cyrus

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Astyages recognizes Cyrus
In this tapestry, the second in the series, a young Cyrus is recognized by the man he would overthrow only a few years later: King Astyages. The figures, shown amidst lush vegetation, are superimposed and do not obey laws of perspective.

A king decides to kill his progeny

Cyrus was the grandson of Astyages, according to the Greek historian Herodotus’ Histories (Book I, CVII-CXVIII). Astyages was King of the Medes, one of the peoples who would later be conquered and incorporated into the Achaemenid Empire. Astyages had a premonition and decided to have his daughter Mandane’s children killed. Mandane was married to Cambyses, a member of the Achaemenid dynasty, and one of these children was Cyrus.

Astyages recognizes Cyrus

However, the person ordered to kill Cyrus did not complete his mission, and gave the baby to a shepherd. When a ten-year-old Cyrus appeared before his grandfather Astyages, he was recognized. According to Herodotus, Cyrus went to his grandfather’s palace, although in the tapestry the scene takes place in the open air. Cyrus was accused of beating another young boy during a game where he was playing the role of King. Astyages, crowned and sitting on his saddle, accompanied by soldiers and ministers, question the young Cyrus.

Astyages’ fatal mistake

Certain that the young boy was his grandson, and remembering the premonition that he would rule the kingdom, Astyages summoned his Magi (Herodotus, Book I, CXX). The Magi assured him that Cyrus had already reigned, during the game, and that therefore he would not reign again. Convinced by their explanation, Astyages sent the young boy to his parents in Persia, Cambyses and Mandane. When Cyrus reached adulthood (and still following the story as told by the Herodotus) he overthrew his grandfather and conquered the land of the Medes, the beginning of what would be his great rule.

The border

The border framing the scene, replete with images of plants, features allegorical figures. In the selvage we see the Antwerp mark and the weaver’s mark, which has not been identified.

Series Story of Cyrus

Second tapestry of the series

Models Anonymous, based on Michiel Coxcie

Manufacture Antwerp, c. 1590

Fabric Silk and wool

Size 343 x 316 cm

Location Royal Palace of Aranjuez

On display Hall of the King’s Halberdiers

Origin Documented in the royal collections since the time of Charles III


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