Search the Collections

Triumph of Justice, from The Triumph of the Seven Virtues series
Triumph of Justice, from The Triumph of the Seven Virtues series
ca. 1535
Not on display
Wool, Silk; Tapestry Weave
439.4 x 551.2 cm (173 x 217 in.)
Object Type:

Collection of the Marques de dos Aguas, Spain
William Randolph Hearst

Accession Number:
Acquisition Date:
Credit Line:

Gift of The William Randolph Hearst Foundation

Exhibition History:

Gallery Rotation, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor, 2013
Tapestries and Armor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor, 2015

-The Book of Beasts: The Bestiary in the Medieval World:
-The J. Paul Getty Museum: 5/14/2019 to 8/18/2019

Justice wears a rich crown and a red gown with flowing sleeves. She is enthroned on a triumphal chariot drawn toward the left by two unicorns. The Virtue’s emblematic bird, the crane, keeps his vigil at her feet. In her left hand she holds the scales and a sword inscribed IVSTICIA. Justice leans forward to receive a second sword from God the Father, who gives his blessing. The unicorns, ancient symbols Christ, are ridden by Sara and Joseph, who prefigured Christ and the Virgin – Sara because she conceived by God’s will and contrary to all expectations: Joseph because his story foretold the events of Christ’s life on earth. They ride before Justice to intercede for sinners. Another biblical figure is NOE (Noah), who kneels with his family beside the Ark to give thanks. The form of the Ark is interesting. Its hull is like that of a galleon, and its central portion, or “castle,” resembles a centrally planned Italian Renaissance church. Other Old Testament figures include REBECCA, at the left edge of the tapestry; RACHEL and IACOB (Jacob) walk beside the chariot. The classical allusions are more numerous than the biblical ones. Under the hooves of the unicorns lie SCILLA and MARI, for Sulla and C. Marius. These ruthless men were noted for their injustice, as was CATILINE, whose broken column is barely visible by the white unicorn’s rear leg. CHARUNDE, for Charondas, the lawgiver, falls gracefully on his sword, having broken one of his own laws. SELEUCHUS, or Zeleuchus (right corner), has one eye covered. He introduced the lex talionis, the law of “an eye for an eye”. Valerius gives Seleuchus and Charondas adjacent citations in his chapter De Justitia. Midway between Seleuchus and the chariot stands Cornelia. Three warriors in parade armor walk before the unicorns. Two are labeled SCIPIO AFRICAN and CATO. Scipio was famous for his success in war and for his restraint in dealing with the spoils of war. Cato, beside him, preferred honor without life to life without honor. Below these figures the episode of TRAJAN and the widow is enacted. The widow points to her dead son lying before the emperor. The soldiers who followed the chariot of Justice and carry her banner, inscribed IVSTICIA, are led by FABRICIUS, the incorruptible. The opulent border of fruit and flowers holds a banderole which reads, ASTREA UTILIBUS RECTUM PREPONERE SUADENS TUIQZ SUUM IUSTA IUS DARE LANCE IUBET (“Astrea [goddess of Justice], advising [you] to prefer what is right to what is expedient, Commands each of you to administer her justice impartially [with just balance of the scale].” From Anna Gray Bennett, "Five Centuries of Tapestry: The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco" (San Francisco: Chronicle Books; The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1976; repr. 1992): p. 108.

Contemporaneous Works “Art from the same century and country”