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The Combat of the Virtues and the Vices, from The Redemption of Man series
The Combat of the Virtues and the Vices, from The Redemption of Man series
Date:
1510–1515
Location:
Not on display
Century:
Media:
Wool, Silk; Tapestry Weave
Dimensions:
416.6 x 797.6 cm (164 x 314 in.)
Object Type:
Country:
Continent:
Europe
Provenance:

Cathedral of Toledo, 1890
Goldschmidt Freres, 1905
French & Co., 1914
William Randolph Hearst Collection

Accession Number:
54.14.4
Acquisition Date:
1954-04-09
Credit Line:

Gift of The William Randolph Hearst Foundation

Exhibition History:

Exposition de l'histoire de la tapisserie, Paris, 1876
Exposition d'art ancien bruxellois, Brussels, 1906
Golden Gate International Exposition, Treasure Island, San Francisco, 1939
Art Objects & Furnishings from the Wm. Randolph Hearst Collection, Hammer Galleries, NY, 1941
Hearst Court, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisc, de Young Museum, various times, 1950s-1980s
Five Centuries of Tapestry, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor, 1976
Gallery Rotation, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor, 2003-2004
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2008-2009

The seventh panel in the Redemption series is actually circular in composition and represents the focal point of the thematic material. Heralds sound the opening of the tournament, standing on Mount Sinai and on Mount Calvary. They are the Old and the New Testament, identified by labels and banners that show, respectively, the Books of the Law and the Chalice of the Eucharist. Their fanfare trumpets are raised in unison, expressing the medieval belief in their harmony. The Old Testament is thinly veiled, suggesting the obscure nature of the prophecies. In the center of the melee, the Christian Knight, who is perhaps a symbol of the Redeemer, leads the Virtues to victory. He wears Gothic armor beneath the cope of the Trinity. Over his helmet one can barely distinguish the crown of thorns. A white unicorn, long known to be a symbol of Christ, serves as his mount. The Virtues ride behind him, unarmed, showing no fear. Temperance on a lion pours water from a ewer; DEVOCIO DEI (Devotion to God) rides a stag, which, according to the Bestiaries, devours harmful serpents. CASTITAS (Chastity) carries a lily and rides on an ass. Sobriety holds a water carafe. The line of defense is completed by PATIE[N]TIA (Patience), HUMILITAS (Humility) with a cross, and DILECTIO (Esteem). A restless and aggressive spirit animates the enemy. Led by SUPERBIA (Pride) on a white camel, the Vices spring forward, for the most part heavily and incongruously armed. Emblems on their shields and helmets, as well as their labels, identify the riders. The armorial bearings of SUPERBIA are the eagle and the peacock. Close behind her, a fox decorates the crest of Gluttony’s helmet. IRA (Anger) follows her, wielding a massive axe. She shows a mad dog on her shield and a hawk on her helmet. ACCIDIA (Sloth) wears no helmet, but a jeweled headdress surmounted by a crown and a monkey. Her shield is emblazoned with an ox. Instead of a weapon, she carries a grassy clod of earth. The explanation of Accidia’s strange attributes is biblical, found in Proverbs 20:4 (“The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing”) and Ecclesiasticus 22:2. In the right foreground, LUXURIA rides away from the battle, sitting rather daintily on a board with a chain for bridle. She holds a mirror. AVARICIA (Avarice) rides before her toward the battle. Her helmet is surmounted by a mole, undistinguishable in this version. The device on her shield is a thin, hungry-looking animal. She rides an oryx and carries a rake. INVIDIA (Envy) rides a winged dragon, originally covered with spots, straight out of the Flemish procession called an omegang. Her shield bears the device of a doglike animal with a long tail; her helmet is a beehive. With a flaming lance she tries to pierce the side of the Christian Knight (Matthew 27:18). At the same moment, he topples SUPERBIA, her sword poised for a blow that is never delivered. The traditional figure for Pride is that of a falling rider. At this decisive moment of the battle, the supreme sacrifice is being made on the cross. This event, although small in scale and relegated to the background, is, nevertheless, the panel’s pivotal point. In the group around the cross one can distinguish Saint John, who supports the sinking Virgin, Saint Mary Magdalen in a moiré gown, and the bearded Longinus. The scrolls of the Prophets foretells and explain these immense events. Isaiah, at left, says IPSE VENIT ET SALUABIT VOS ISAIS (He comes and he will save you, Isaiah) (Isaiah 35:4). 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. 68.