Rare Tapestries Go on View at the Legion of Honor

August 22, 2013

The Triumph of Fortitude

Starting August 31, 2013, the Legion of Honor’s Gallery 1 will display three gems from the Fine Arts Museums’ renowned collection of tapestries: The Triumph of Fortitude, The Triumph of Justice, and The Triumph of Prudence. This will be the first time in the Museums’ history that all three tapestries will be displayed together.

These three tapestries belong to the series The Triumph of the Seven Virtues and were woven in Brussels in about 1535. This presentation is possible due to two decades of conservation work on the tapestries, led by Sarah Gates, the Museums’ head of textile conservation.

The series depicts the theological virtues—faith, hope, and charity—and the cardinal virtues—temperance, prudence, justice, and fortitude—through numerous allegories drawn from biblical, historical, and classical sources. With the exception of The Triumph of Temperance, which no longer exists anywhere, examples of each of these tapestries are in ten different museum collections worldwide, including Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina; the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna; Paris’s Cluny Museum; and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England. The Fine Arts Museums possess the only remaining edition of The Triumph of Justice.

The Triumph of Justice

Two suits of armor from the Museums’ collections will accompany the tapestry installation: a suit of fluted “Maximilian” armor from about 1515 and a later suit attributed to the workshop of Augsburg armorer Anton Peffenhauser.

Conservation for the Triumph tapestries was made possible by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute for Museum Services (now the Institute of Museum and Library Services), the McNeil Volunteer Award, Margaret Gordon, Mr. and Mrs. Bogolub, the San Francisco Auxiliary of the Fine Arts Museums, and funds from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.