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Triumph of Time over Fame c. 1515-20

RCIN 1270

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This tapestry is the fifth scene in a six-piece set of the Triumphs of Petrarch.

The celebrated Italian poet Petrarch (1304 – 74) composed the cycle of allegorical poems I Trionfi (The Triumphs) between 1352 and 1374. They inspired many pictorial cycles of which these tapestries are the most elaborate. Petrarch describes a vision in which the poet sees a sequence of triumphal processions, each celebrating the victory of an allegorical personification. In the six poems the main subject of the previous Triumph is shown defeated by a new victor. The cycle begins with the Triumph of Love, followed by the Triumph of Chastity over Love, Death over Chastity, Fame over Death, Time over Fame (as here) and Eternity over Time.

On the left Fame as the waning power is shown reclining on her triumphal car drawn by four elephants; her attribute the trumpet resting by her side. Her entourage of famous warriors, martyrs, scholars and heroes are shown in disarray. To the right Time, an elderly man on crutches, is the ascendant power, while in front of him sits the defeated Fame. His chariot drawn by four winged horses flies through the sky. Overhead there is a celestial arc containing symbols of the zodiac interspersed with female personifications of the Hours.

The designs seem to have been created for the French king, Louis XII, on the basis of an illuminated manuscript of the Triumphs of Petrarch presented to him around 1503. Cartoons were probably created in 1507 but the set made for Louis XII has not survived. Contact between the French and English courts made the designs popular in this country. Thomas Ruthal, the original owner, was one of the most Francophile members of the English court and was present at the marriage of Henry VIII’s sister Mary to Louis in 1514.

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