Jason and Medea

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Jason and Medea
This scene, a courtly depiction, has traditionally been related to the Jewish heroine Esther (Esther 2, 21-23). However, we now believe it to be a mythological interpretation of the story of Jason and Medea and the Argonauts (Ovid, Metamorphoses, VIII and Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica, III). Therefore, we also consider this tapestry to share similarities with “Medea helping the Argonauts” and “Medea offering gifts to Creon”, both kept in the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.

The court of King Aeëtes and his daughter Medea

Following the mythological reading of the tapestry, the scene shows the court of Colchis, presided over by King Aeëtes and his daughter Medea, both sitting on thrones. Jason, the leader of the expedition of the Argonauts, has asked them for the Golden Fleece. Jason appears in the foreground, in the centre of the group at the bottom left, decked out in a leopard skin cloak and wearing one single sandal, typical characteristics attributed to the hero.

Jason appeals to Medea

Jason appears again in the upper left-hand corner, as if pleading with Medea, who was an expert in witchcraft and spells. She helps Jason overcome the tests which her father, the King of Colchis, demanded before Jason and the Argonauts could obtain the Golden Fleece they desired.

Biblical readings

If we were to take a biblical reading of the tapestry, it would depict the punishment of the eunuchs Bigthan and Teresh, guardians of the royal palace who conspired to assasinate Ahasuerus. The Jew Mordecai, cousin of Queen Esther, found out about the plot and, through her, alerted the King who sentenced the plotters (Esther 3, 1-7, 10). The tapestry would therefore depict the moment when the eunuchs are arrested, watched over by Ahasuerusand his wife Esther. The tapestry could potentially represent yet another story related to the Esther: the sentencing of Haman, Ahasuerus’ prime minister, who was planning to exterminate all the Jews living in the Persian Empire. Thanks to Esther and Mordecai’s intervention, the Jews were saved and Haman was hanged. The tapestry would thus depict Haman’s arrest.

Series Mythological

Model Jan van Roome

Manufacture Brussels

Composition Silk and wool

Size 350,5 x 260,5 cm

Location Diocesan and Comarcal Museum of Lleida

Origin Donated to La Seu Vella, Lleida by Bishop Jaime Conchillos, 1536

On display Museum of Lleida, Renaissance Room

Inventory number 2035


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