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The Apotheosis of Divine Wisdom

Wool and silk tapestry, Apotheosis of Divine Wisdom, made in Brussels, Belgium, 1520–1530

Wool and silk tapestry, Apotheosis of Divine Wisdom, made in Brussels, Belgium, 1520–1530

Tapestry, one of a series (with 46.129), woven with wool and silk wefts and wool warps depicting The Honours: Virtue. VIRTUS (‘Virtue’ in the centre crowned with laurels, beats a chained faun VICIV (‘Vice’) underneath SAPIENTIA DIVINA (‘Divine Wisdom’) enthroned amongst the clouds. Two tiers of allegorical, including the virtues and senses, Biblical, classical and historical figures, each named, are arranged under or in front of a Renaissance colonnade with two cartouches set in a landscape with a rainbow bearing symbols from the zodiac. Border of flowers and fruit with three cartouches along the top.

This massive tapestry is the largest in The Burrell Collection. It derives from an original set of seven made for Cardinal Erard de la Marck, Prince Bishop of Liège, around 1530. The Bishop’s set was copied, with modifications, from an extremely important, famous and grand set called Los Honores in the Spanish Royal Collection, woven for the election and coronation of the young emperor Charles V. A second tapestry in the Burrell Collection, The Apotheosis of Faith, is derived from the same set.

The complex iconography of this tapestry is linked to others of the set. It depicts, in allegorical form, the virtues which a good Ruler should ideally practice in private life. The young Charles V himself is present, as are various figures from the Bible, Classical History and as named Allegories (e.g. Virtue overcoming Vice, Prudence in a chariot, and Divine Wisdom herself). The key message of this tapestry would be its grandeur and ‘hidden’ message.

This, and a fellow tapestry from the set (46.129), was purchased at auction by the Burrell Trustees shortly after Sir William Burrell’s death in 1958.

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