Antique tapestry in the style of van Orley depicting Hercules
Continental, 19th century
Height 234cm, width 200cm
Inspired by a series of tapestries titled ‘The Spheres’ created by Bernard van Orley (1491-1541), the tapestry in Mayfair Gallery’s collection depicts Hercules carrying a celestial sphere. The original collection of tapestries was commissioned by King John II of Portugal in 1530.
The central image on the tapestry depicts Hercules, the god of strength, only sparsely clothed in animal skin, holding in both his arms a very large celestial sphere. Inside the sphere are various animals and figures such as warriors and snakes. This imagery is inspired by an event from Roman mythology when Hercules replaced Atlas in supporting the weight of the heavens.
Around the Roman god are portrayed numerous male and female figures among a woodland scenery. Rocks, grass and branches interspersed with animals like snakes decorate the ground the figures are standing on. The expertly woven tapestry is polychrome, and its palette features muted colours.
The scene is framed by a wide border filled with fruits, flowers, and other symbolic illustrations. At the top is written ‘MAGNA VIRTUS SED / ALIENAE OBNOXIA’.
Expertly woven, this tapestry is a wonderful addition to the collection of anyone interested in Roman mythology.