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Master: The Story of Abraham Series
Item: The Separation of Abraham and Lot, Genesis Ch. 13, v. 8-9

Luxury hangings for royal residences


The Triumphs of Petrarch 1500-23

RCIN 1270

Great Watching Chamber, Hampton Court Palace

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Cardinal Wolsey (1473–1530), Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII (1491–1547), was known for his extensive tapestry collection. His gentleman usher and biographer, George Cavendish (1497–c.1562), described his chambers 'garnysht / with arras fynne. // Importyng personages. / of the lyvelyest kind'. These four panels were bought by him in 1523. They are taken from a Flemish series of six based on the poem I Trionfi ('The Triumphs') by the Italian scholar Petrarch (1304–1374). Petrarch's poem described the triumphs of various allegorical personifications: Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time and Divinity. 

The panels acquired by Wolsey show the Triumph of Death over Chastity (two versions), the Triumph of Fame over Death and the Triumph of Time over Fame. Each shows a chariot on the left representing the waning power at the moment of its defeat, while on the right is the chariot of the rising power. 

Another version of the Triumph of Fame over Death panel, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, contains two additional figures who bear a resemblance to Wolsey and the king.  Although it is unknown whether these additions were suggested by Wolsey himself, they hint at tapestry's potential as a powerful iconographic tool for self-representation.