The Seven Virtues Series (Las Siete Virtudes)
Whereas in the 15th c. Virtues used to be shown in opposition to Vices, which they fought to success, in the Renaissance they started to be represented individually, stressing their values per se. In general, the cycles were comprised of the Seven Virtues: the theological –Faith, Hope and Charity– and the cardinal –Justice, Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance. Some complete series are kept, such as the one at the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, or this at Burgos.
The tapestry of the Seven Virtues, a bequest from Bishop Cristóbal Vela de Acuña. Like most of the tapestries belonging to the cathedral of Burgos, these were also donated by one of its bishops. Cristóbal Vela de Acuña arrived at this see in 1580, where he died in November of 1599. He set down "the donation and gratification for now and ever after of my tapestry of the Seven Virtues which is in seven pieces..." A few months later, his executors saw to it and the cloths were put to cover the walls of the Chapter House. They remained there until the late 20th c., when the room was rearranged to display paintings. The cloths were removed and, after a restoration process, just two of them are shown nowadays –Justice and Temperance– hanging at remarkable height from St James's chapel, recently turned into a cathedral museum.
The mark B▼B on the lower selvage proves that they were manufactured in Brussels, and the monogram on the right selvage clarifies that they come from Frans Geubels' workshops. These tapestries are very similar to those kept at the Kunsthistorisches of Vienna, although their borders are different. Since we know those at Vienna were woven following cartoons by the painter Michiel Coxcie, it is quite likely that the series at Burgos was also made from cartoons copied from the former.
These tapestries break away from the custom of representing Virtues against Vices, which can be noted in the tapestries on the Redemption of Man, a bequest by Bishop Fonseca, which are also kept in the cathedral of Burgos.
LÓPEZ MATA, T., La catedral de Burgos (2ª ed.), Burgos, 1966.
MATESANZ DEL BARRIO, J., “La colección de tapices flamencos de la catedral de Burgos en la Edad Moderna”, Boletín de la Institución Fernán González, 236 (2008), pp. 111-131.
Series The Seven Virtues
Models Cartoons based on Michiel Coxcie
Manufacture Frans Geubels, Brussels, c. 1560-1570
Fabric Silk and wool
Location St James's chapel (museum) of the cathedral of Burgos
Origin A bequest to the cathedral in 1559 by Bishop Cristóbal Vela de Acuña