Theseus presents the head of the Minotaur to the King and Queen of Crete

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Theseus presents the head of the Minotaur to the King and Queen of Crete

This tapestry, the seventh of the series, shows a kneeling Theseus presenting the gruesome head of the Minotaur to King Minos and his wife Pasiphaë, who mothered the monster. The Minotaur´s horns can just about be seen. The Labyrinth, depicted in the centre, is being gazed upon with fear by a group of armed men and women, Theseus’ companions from the journey. The borders are the same as in the other pieces, and the name of the weaver is inscribed in the lower selvage: “IAN RAES LE IEVSNE”.

Theseus defeats the Minotaur

Following an exceptional fight, Theseus slayed the Minotaur and cut off its head. Having overcome this test, he was able to find his way out of the Labyrinth thanks to the thread which Ariadne had given him. He then presented himself and his trophy to Minos and Pasiphaë.

A dramatic presentation

No element of theatricality is missing in this dramatic scene. See how the curtain is pulled back, like a stage curtain before a performance. Minos’ horror is palpable and Pasiphaë – lest we forget that she was the mother of the Minotaur, engendering it after copulating with a bull – clearly shows her pain at the loss.

The Labyrinth of the Minotaur

The Labyrinth, in this depiction, appears as a dense, intricate city. In fact, it can be identified with the Great Palace of Minos in Knossos, with an extensive open square in the centre. The companions of Theseus gaze at it and seem to be deciding amongst themselves who shall enter the Labyrinth, unaware that the Athenian hero has already slain the Minotaur.

Series Story of Theseus

Seventh tapestry in the series

Model Anthonis Sallaert

Manufacture Jan Raes the Younger, Brussels, c. 1630

Fabric Silk and wool

Size 396 x 498 cm

Location Royal Palace of El Pardo

Origin Collection of Philip IV

On display Upper Gallery, Patio de las Austrias


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