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Collection of the Marques de dos Aguas, Spain
William Randolph Hearst
Gift of The William Randolph Hearst Foundation
Gallery Rotation, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Legion of Honor, 2001-2002
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 Virtue of Fortitude or moral strength, apparently conceived as a female allegorical figure like her sister Virtues, wears more masculine armor and a long skirt. Her right arm encircles a column, perhaps representing one that Samson overturned to destroy the Philistines (Judges 16:25). Her left hand strangles a griffon. An enormous eagle rides before Fortitude as her emblematic bird. The chariot is drawn toward the left by lions, symbols of courage and power. Their riders are labeled CINOPE and DENTAT’. At upper left, Judith’s sword, inscribed IVDICH, is lifted high above the head of Holofernes (Judith 13:4-7). A military scene involving ALEXANDER is in the distance in the corner above. A label, much restored, identifies the woman on horseback as CLOELIA, the Roman girl given to Porsenna as hostage. Beside the horse swims COCLES, for Horatius Cocles, who held the bridge against Porsenna. Four spectacular figures occupy the foreground: Scaeva, Tomyris, Jael, and at left, a standing warrior who holds his right hand in the fire. The hem of his tunic reads MVC…VOLA, for C. Mucius Scaevola (“left-handed”), a Roman who had tried to kill Porsenna. Caught, he burned the hand that had failed him. The kneeling soldier to Scaevola’s right is Cassius Scaeva (SCEVA), a centurion in Caesar’s army who distinguished himself at the battle of Dyrrachium. THAMARIS, or Tomyris, Queen of the Massagetae, dips the head of her enemy, Cyrus, into a bucket of blood. The energetic young woman in the right corner is Jael, from the Old Testament, who destroyed a sleeping enemy by driving a tent pin into his temple. Her victim is Sisera, who is identified by the letters SIS on his shoulder armor (Judges 4:17-21). The man confronting the lion between Tomyris and Jael may be Milo of Crotona. Above the lion, King David refuses water brought from the well of Bethlehem by three mighty men at the peril of their lives (II Samuel 23:15 – 17). IOSUE, or Joshua, the conqueror of Canaan, brings up his army in the rear. NEEMIAS (Nehemiah), is placed near the city walls, for he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:17, 3:32). The banderole reads, OBIICIT ADVERSIS INTERRITA CORDA PERICULIS VIRTUS EQZ IUUAT MORTE RECEPTA SALUS (“Valor exposes fearless hearts to hostile dangers. It helps equally as a source of safety [or salvation] when death is suffered”). 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): pp. 105 – 106.