Valerius blesses Decius
Faithful to Livy’s account
Rubens followed the story as told by Livy (History of Rome VIII, 9) to the letter: “Decius exclaimed in a loud voice to Marcus Valerius: ‘Valerius, we need the help of the gods! Let the Pontifex Maximus dictate to me the words in which I am to devote myself for the legions.’ The Pontifex bade him veil his head in his toga praetexta, and rest his hand, covered with the toga, against his chin, then standing upon a spear to say these words…”. Rubens captures here the moment when Decius invokes the gods with his hand on his chin, covered with a toga and standing on an arrow. However, a group of warriors waiting beside the consul’s horse and weapons, which Rubens painted in the modello (kept in the Bavarian State Picture Collection, Munich) and in the cartoon (kept in the Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna), do not appear in the tapestry.
Almost a painting
The extraordinary colours of oil could not be replicated entirely, although the weavers did remain, for the large part, faithful to the cartoon. The border of geometric motifs, fruit and animals is common to all the tapestries in the series. The presence of the weaver’s name and monogram in the selvages show this particular tapestry to be the work of Jan Raes II.
Series History of the consul Decius Mus
Fourth tapestry in the series
Model P. P. Rubens
Manufacture Jan Raes II, Brussels, c. 1620-1629
Fabric Gold, silver, silk and wool
Size 405 x 330 cm
Location Royal Palace of Madrid
Origin Collection of Philip IV
On display Royal Armoury
National Heritage Inv. 10013128