King Arthur (from the Nine Heroes Tapestries)

Date: ca. 1400

Culture: South Netherlandish

Medium: Wool warp, wool wefts

Dimensions: Overall (King Arthur (2a, f)): 168 × 117 in. (426.7 × 297.2 cm)
Overall (Hebrew Worthies (2b, c, and h)): 168 × 250 in. (426.7 × 635 cm)

Classification: Textiles-Tapestries

Credit Line: Munsey Fund, 1932; Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1947

Accession Number: 32.130.3a; 47.101.4


This figure of King Arthur was originally part of a set of hangings representing nine heroes, three from classical antiquity, three from the Old Testament, and three from the New Testament. As an allegory of good government, the tapestries reflected their owner's wish to be perceived as a wise and brave ruler, worthy to stand alongside the heroes of the past. Such tapestries accompanied their owner as he moved from one residence to the next and proclaimed his ambitions wherever he went. Each hero is depicted as an over-lifesize figure seated in an elaborate architecture. Given the limitations inherent to the textile arts, the tapestries impress by their lucid articulation of volumes in space. The repeated arms of Jean, duc de Berry suggest that he was the commissioner of the set.