Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Triumph of Fame over Death

ca. 1500–1530
South Netherlandish
Wool warp; wool and silk wefts
Overall: 144 x 128 in. (365.8 x 325.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of George D. Pratt, 1935
Accession Number:
Not on view
A team of white elephants pulls a chariot in which the winged figure of Fame rides. Dressed in brocade and ostrich feathers, she sounds a trumpet, heralding the appearance of four famous men: two philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, and two rulers, Alexander the Great, on the far side, and Charlemagne. Alexander bears the golden scepter topped with a hand and other emblems of the kings of France; Charlemagne wears the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor but also the fleur-de-lys of France. Female figures symbolizing Death are trampled underfoot.
The theme derives from The Triumphs (I Trionfi), by the fourteenth-century Italian poet Petrarch. By about 1500, it had been translated into French for King Louis XII and illustrated on royal tapestries.
This example is one of a series from the château de Septmonts, the residence of the bishops of Soissons. Bishop Symphorien de Bullioud, who was familiar with Italian culture from his diplomatic missions to Rome and Milan for Louis XII, probably commissioned the series.
The tapestry has been cut at the top, and the single remaining line of the inscription "By her power as a lady of consequence" relates to the complicated Triumph metaphor.
Inscription: [on the red naderole at top]: PAR SON POVOIR COMME DAME EXSTIMEE

[on Fame's skirt]: ?OMMEE

[on Aristotle's cloack]: ARISTOTE

[to the right of Alexander's shoulder]: ALEXANDRE

[across Plato's knee]: PLATON

[on hem of Charlemagne's robe, mostly illegible]: RC V? MANV. R? L I? OV? OI

[beneath the Fate at the rigth]: ATROPOS
Baron d'Ezpleta, château de Septmonts, Aisne, France; P. W. French & Co., New York (by 1918); George D. Pratt, Glen Cove, NY (before 1928–1935)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Middle Ages: Treasures from The Cloisters and The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 18, 1970–March 29, 1970.

Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago. "The Middle Ages: Treasures from The Cloisters and The Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 16, 1970–July 5, 1970.

Ostoia, Vera K. The Middle Ages: Treasures from the Cloisters and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1969. no. 117, pp. 246-248, 262.

Winternitz, Emanuel. "Strange Musical Instruments in the Madrid Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci." Metropolitan Museum Journal 2 (1969). pp. 120-1, fig. 7.

Cavallo, Adolfo S. Medieval Tapestries in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 33, pp. 463-478, fig. 145-153.

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