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Gift of Marian M. Miller
The story of the enchantress, Medea, and her faithless lover, Jason, is notable for its cruelty, treachery, and passion. Medea practiced her magic arts to win the Golden Fleece for Jason. For him, also, she betrayed her father and murdered her brother. She fled as an exile with the Argonauts, finally settling with Jason in Corinth, where she bore him two sons. Jason’s meanness and ambition asserted themselves after a time, and he rejected Medea for the young daughter of the king of Corinth. Medea sent her sons to the bride with the gift of a poisoned robe. Putting it on, the girl was consumed by flames, as was her father when he tried to save her. Medea then killed her children to complete her fearful revenge. The tapestry shows the moment in the story when Jason and the Corinthians rush from the burning palace to find Medea and kill her. Jason’s red cloak swirls behind him. His shield is on his arm, his sword drawn. But he is too late. Medea has stepped from the place roof into her dragon car, gift of her grandfather, Helius. She makes her escape, having repaid her faithless lover by leaving him wifeless and childless. The story of Medea is found in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” (Book VII) and his “Heroides” (Book XII). Euripedes, Seneca, and others gave the Medea story dramatic form. The tapestry has lively color in shades of blue, green, beige, and red. The very strange border of heavy garlands tied at the corners with red and white ribbons appears to be a replacement carelessly applied, the shading being suddenly reversed in the lower-right hand corner. 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): 194.