The motif of Nine Heroes drawn from Classical, Jewish, and Christian traditions was first mentioned in a French poem in 1312, and soon became a popular theme throughout art and literature in late medieval Europe. Pulled from both history and legend, Hector of Troy, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar represented the Heroes of the Classical era. Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeus, from the Hebrew Bible and related accounts, constituted the Jewish Heroes. Finally, from medieval Europe, King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon formed the Christian Heroes. Celebrated as perfect embodiments of chivalry, the Nine Heroes provided exemplars of worthy warriors and just leaders for men of the noble and upper classes.
French poems of the late fourteenth century also began to praise Nine Heroines. As counterparts to the Heroes, the Heroines promoted ideals of chastity, humility, and loyalty. However, this list of Heroines was never settled and artists depicted various groups of women from the histories and legends of the ancient world. The celebrated German artist Hans Burgkmair established a set of three Classical, three Jewish, and three Christian women when he produced woodcuts of all eighteen Heroes and Heroines between 1516 and 1519. Perhaps intended for his imperial patron Maximilian I, Burgkmair’s series provided moral direction for men and women alike. Four of these six prints are in The Met’s collection (see 18.20.1–.3 and 30.53.10).
Dating to around 1400, The Cloisters’ Heroes are among the oldest surviving medieval tapestries in the world. Their state of preservation is remarkable, even though only five heroes are still extant. Each man sits enthroned underneath an architectural canopy, and each is depicted with emblems that early audiences would have recognized as clear markers of identity and authority. In its original form, the ensemble was almost certainly comprised of three large tapestries: one for the Classical Heroes, one for the Jewish Heroes, and one for the Christian Heroes. Made entirely of wool, these hangings were both decorative and practical, keeping stone interiors warm and festive during the colder months of the year.
Since the acquisition of the Heroes Tapestries, scholars have suggested that they may have been made for Jean, duke of Berry (1340–1416), son of John II, King of France. Of the fourteen heraldic banners in the upper part of the Hebrew tapestry, ten display Jean’s coat of arms. Of the remaining four, three show the royal arms of France and one the arms of Jean’s younger brother, Phillip the Bold, duke of Burgundy. Tantalizingly, inventories of the collections of the duke of Berry indicate that he did own tapestries featuring the Nine Heroes, but these hangings—unlike those in The Cloisters’ collection—were made with gold and silver threads. Though we might imagine that The Cloisters’ tapestries closely resembled the ones in the duke’s possession, there is no conclusive proof regarding their original ownership.
On the left side of this tapestry, Joshua gazes downward. He holds a sword, now mostly lost, in his right hand and a dagger hangs from his belt. In the center of the composition sits King David, his shield bearing a harp and his left hand holding a book to evoke his role as author of the Psalms. Composed of many fragments, this tapestry reflects the scale of the complete Heroes ensemble. Judas Maccabeus, the missing Jewish Hero, would have been to the right of David, where the cut-out for the modern doorway is today.
This artwork is meant to be viewed from right to left. Scroll left to view more.
Use your arrow keys to navigate the tabs below, and your tab key to choose an item
Title:Joshua and David (from the Heroes Tapestries)
Medium:Wool warp, wool wefts
Dimensions:Overall: 168 x 250 in. (426.7 × 635 cm)
Credit Line:Munsey Fund, 1932; Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1947; Gift of George A. Douglass, 1947
Accession Number:32.130.3b; 47.101.1; 47.152
Marking: Arms (on thirteen banners atop turrets, on bosses of vaulting above Joshua and David): azure, semé of fleurs-de-lis gold, within a border engrailed gules [Arms of Jean duc de Berry]; (on banner next to end turret at right of tapestry): bendy of six, azure and gold [Arms of Burgundy]; (on shield at right of figure): argent, a dragon vert [Arms of Joshua]; (on shield at right of figure): azure, a harp gold [Arms of David]
[ Joel Joseph Duveen, London] [32.130.3b] ; Maurice Chabrières-Arlès, Lyon and Paris (by 1877) [32.130.3b] ; [ Duveen Brothers, Paris and New York (from late 1915) [32.130.3b] ; Clarence Mackay American, Roslyn, NY (1924–sold 1932) [32.130.3b] ; Joel Joseph Duveen, London [47.101.1] ; Baron Arthur Schickler 1828–1919, château Martinvast, Normandy (from about 1872) [47.101.1] ; Count and Countess Hubert de Pourtalès, château Martinvast, Normandy (sold 1936) [47.101.1] ; [ Brummer Gallery, Paris and New York (1936–1947) ] [47.101.1] ; Clarence Mackay American, Roslyn, NY [47.152] ; [ Raphael Stora and Co., New York, New York (?)] [47.152] ; George A. Douglass, Sr., New York (until 1947) [47.152]
Rorimer, James J. Mediaeval Tapestries: A Picture Book. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1947. p. 2.
Rorimer, James J. "The Museum's Collection of Mediaeval Tapestries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 6, no. 3 (November 1947). pp. 92–93, 98.
Adam-Even, Paul. "La tapisserie aux Preux (Metropolitan Museum, New York)." Revue Française d'Héraldique et de Sigillographie 5, no. 12 (1949). pp. 74–76.
Comstock, Helen. "The Connoisseur in America: The Rediscovery of the Duke of Berry's 'Heroes'." The Connoisseur 124 (1949). pp. 114–116.
Rorimer, James J., and Margaret B. Freeman. "The Nine Heroes Tapestries at The Cloisters." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 7, no. 9 (May 1949). pp. 243–260.
Rorimer, James J. The Cloisters: The Building and the Collection of Mediaeval Art in Fort Tryon Park, New York. 11th ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1951. pp. 47–55, fig. 24.
Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1952. p. 222, fig. 55.
Rorimer, James J. The Nine Heroes Tapestries at The Cloisters. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1953.
Freeman, Margaret. "A Book of Hours Made for the Duke of Berry." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 15, no. 4 (December 1956). pp. 101–102.
Weigert, Roger-Armand. La tapisserie française. Paris: Pierre Larousse, 1956. pp. 37–38.
Wyss, R.L. "Die neun Helden: Eine ikonographische Studie." Zeitschrift für Schweizerische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte (1957). pp. 78–79, 86.
Heinz, Dora. "Gewirkte Monumentalmalerei - Zur Tapisseriekunst in Frankreich und Burgund um 1400." Alte und Moderne Kunst 56/57 (March/April 1962). p. 26.
Heinz, Dora. Europäische Wandteppiche: Ein Handbuch für Sammler und Liebhaber. Volume 1: Von den Anfängen der Bildwerkerei bis zum Ende des 16. Jahrhunderts. Bibliothek für Kunst- und Antiquitätenfreunde, Vol. 37. Brunswick: Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1963. pp. 53–54.
Rorimer, James J. The Cloisters: The Building and the Collection of Medieval Art in Fort Tryon Park. 3rd revised ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1963. pp. 76–83, fig. 34, 36.
Weigert, Roger-Armand. La tapisserie et le tapis en France. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1964. pp. 23–24.
Hoving, Thomas. "The Thread of Patronage: The Medieval Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters." Apollo 82, no. 43 (September 1965). p. 185, fig. 8.
Verlet, Pierre. "Gothic Tapestry." In Great Tapestries: The Web of History from the 12th to the 20th Century, edited by Joseph Jobé. Lausanne: Edita, 1965. pp. 10, 20–21, 51.
Stoddard, Whitney S. Monastery and Cathedral in France: Medieval Architecture, Sculpture, Stained Glass, Manuscripts, the Art of the Church Treasuries. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1966. pp. 350, 355–56.
Troescher, Georg. Burgundische Malerei. Maler und Malwerke um 1400 in Burgund, dem Berry mit der Auvergne und in Savoyen mit ihren Quellen und Ausstrahlungen. Vol. 1. Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1966. pp. 241–242, 289, illus vol II, figs. 412–415.
Viale Ferrero, Mercedes. "Tapestry and Carpets: I. Tapestry." In Encyclopedia of World Art. Vol. 13. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967. cols. 913–14, pl. 392.
Meiss, Millard. French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Late Fourteenth Century and the Patronage of the Duke. Volume 1, Text. London: Phaidon Press, 1967. pp. 58, 365 n. 103.
Jarry, Madeleine. World Tapestry: From Its Origins to the Present. New York: Putnam, 1969. pp. 34, 37, fig. pp. 40–42.
Ysselsteyn, G.T. van. Tapestry: The Most Expensive Industry of the XVth and XVIth Centuries; A Renewed Research into Technic, Origin and Iconography. The Hague: Cornelis Gysbert van Goor, 1969. pp. 38–40, 100.
Coffinet, Julien. Arachné ou L'art de la tapisserie. Paris: Bibliothèque des arts, 1971. p. 176.
Stucky-Schürer, Monika. Die Passionsteppiche von San Marco in Venedig. Bern: Stämpfli Verlag, 1972. pp. 63–64, fig. 43.
Vaivre, Jean-Bernard de. "Les trois couronnes des hérauts." Archivum Heraldicum 86 (1972). no. 25, p. 34.
Coffinet, Julien. Métamorphoses de la tapisserie. Paris: Bibliothèque des arts, 1977. p. 16.
Legner, Anton, ed. Die Parler und der schöne Stil, 1350-1400: Europäische Kunst unter den Luxemburgern. Vol. 3. Cologne: Museen der Stadt Köln, 1978. pp. 120–123.
Young, Bonnie. A Walk Through The Cloisters. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979. pp. 58–63.
Vaivre, Jean-Bernard de. "L'Héraldique et l'histoire de l'art du Moyen Age." Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 6th ser., 93 (1979). pp. 102, 104.
Heslop, T. A. "The Episcopal Seals of Richard of Bury." In Medieval Art and Architecture at Durham Cathedral. British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions 1977. London: British Archaeological Association, 1980. p. 157.
Grand, Paule-Marie. La Tapisserie. Paris: Bibliothèque des Arts, 1981. p. 42.
Baron, Françoise, ed. Les fastes du Gothique: Le siècle de Charles V. Paris: Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, 1981. p. 410.
Vaivre, Jean-Bernard de. "Notes d'héraldique et d'emblématique à propos de la tapisserie de l'Apocalypse d'Angers." In Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres. Vol. 127. 1983. no. 54, pp. 102–103, 113.
Herman, Kerry B. "Exemplum Virtutis: The Noble Heroes and Heroines of the Middle Ages." In Survival of the Gods: Classical Mythology in Medieval Art. Providence, R.I.: Brown University, 1987. p. 25.
Erlane-Brandenburg, Alain, and Francis Salet. La tenture de l'Apocalypse d'Angers. Nantes, 1987. p. 16.
Sterling, Charles. La Peinture Médiévale à Paris, 1300-1500. Vol. 1. Paris: Bibliothèque des Arts, 1987. p. 202.
Cavallo, Adolfo S. Medieval Tapestries in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 2, pp. 14, 94–124, fig. 88–92.
Campbell, Thomas P., ed. Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002. pp. 48–49.
Campbell, Thomas P. Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty: Tapestries at the Tudor Court. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007. pp. 23–24, fig. 2.2.
Husband, Timothy B. The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry. New York ; New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008. p. 17, fig. 17.
Gil, Marc. "Jean Pucelle and the Parisian Seal-Engravers and Goldsmiths." In Jean Pucelle: Innovation and Collaboration in Manuscript Painting, edited by Kyunghee Pyun, and Anna D. Russakoff. London: Harvey Miller Publishers, 2013. p. 39.
Stucky-Schürer, Monica. Eine immerwährende Krönung: Charles VII (1403-1461) und die Throntapisserie im Louvre. Basel: Schwabe & Co., 2014. p. 87.
Williamson, Paul, and Glyn Davies. Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200–1550. Vol. 1. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2014. pp. 386, 501.
Stein, Wendy A. How to Read Medieval Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016. no. 10, pp. 11, 52–54.
Bolton, Andrew, ed. Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. Vol. 2. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018. p. 294.
The Met Collection API is where all makers, creators, researchers, and dreamers can connect to the most up-to-date data and public domain images for The Met collection. Open Access data and public domain images are available for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use without permission or fee.
We continue to research and examine historical and cultural context for objects in The Met collection. If you have comments or questions about this object record, please complete and submit this form. The Museum looks forward to receiving your comments.
The Museum's collection of medieval and Byzantine art is among the most comprehensive in the world, encompassing the art of the Mediterranean and Europe from the fall of Rome to the beginning of the Renaissance.