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Simon the Magician, from The Story of St. Peter series
Simon the Magician, from The Story of St. Peter series
Date:
ca. 1475
Location:
Not on display
Century:
Media:
Wool; Slit, Dovetailed, And Double-interlocked Tapestry Weave
Dimensions:
256.5 x 469.9 cm (101 x 185 in.)
Object Type:
Country:
Continent:
Europe
Culture/People:
Franco-Flemish
Provenance:

Church of Saint-Pierre, Vienne, Isere, France
Paul Blanchet de Rives, Grenoble, 1913
Jacques Seligmann
Sidney M. Ehrman, San Francisco

Accession Number:
1959.78
Acquisition Date:
1959-04-13
Credit Line:

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney M. Ehrman

Exhibition History:

Five Centuries of Tapestry, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor, 1976
National Tour: Five Centuries of Tapestry, Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, New York, 12/3/77- 1/29/78; Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, 5/13/78 - 7/2/78; Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, 9/13/78 - 10/29/78
Tapestries: 15th - 20th Centuries, Transamerica Pyramid Lobby, San Francisco, 1979
A Collection Rediscovered: European Tapestries, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum, 1992
Gallery Rotation, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor, 1996 - 1997
Gallery Rotation, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor, 1/98 - 2/01
Beauty, Power, and Prestige: Textiles and Costume from the Permanent Collection, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum, 10/05

Simon Magus is taken off from a high tower in the Capitoline hill. An inscription near the top identifies him: SIMO[N] MAGUS (Simon the Magician). With long green wings attached to his arms, he flies above the walled city of Rome, to the admiration of Nero and his astonished court. The banderole beneath Nero reads: ECCE SIMO[N] ASCE[N]DIT CELUM CUM DIIS IMPERATORIS (Lo, Simon soars in the sky with the gods of the emperor). Nero, carrying a heavy scepter, wears the royal ermine and a closed imperial crown encrusted with pearls. An archer, seen from the back, fingers a large arrow as he watches the airborne magician. Saint Peter, identified by his key, looks at Saint Paul in consternation. The central inscription seems to represent his words: VIDE QUOMODO SIMO[N] ARTE SUA MAGITA NERONIS OCCULOS ET ADSTANCIUM ILLUDIT (See how Simon by his magic art deludes the eyes of Nero and bystanders). Another inscription summarizes the action in the right half of the tapestry: QUOMODO SIMO[N] MAGUS VOLLANDO CORRUIT (How Simon the Magician fell to earth in mid-flight). Saint Paul kneels in prayer. His prayer, presumably, appears on the banderole: D[OMI]NE OSTEND[E] ET VANAS ARTES SUAS - NE P[O]P[U]L[U]S QUI CREDITURUS EST DECIPIATUR (Oh Lord, show him that his arts are false, lest the gullible people be deceived). Saint Peter, standing, addresses the powers of darkness. As Jacobus de Voragine tells it, "Then Peter cried out: Angels of Satan, who hold this man up in the air, in the name of my Master Jesus Christ, I command you to hold him up no longer!" Small demons can be seen to desert the falling body of Simon. The magician plunges headlong into the cobblestones. 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. 34.