Tapestry: "Penelope at Her Loom" a fragment from "The Story of Penelope and The Story of the Cimbri Women" (from the series, "The Stories of Virtuous Women")

French or Franco-Flemish
about 1480–83

Object Place: France or the Franco-Flemish territories


100 x 150 cm (39 3/8 x 59 1/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wool tapestry

Not On View


Europe, Textiles and Fashion Arts



In the center foreground, a richly dressed woman (Penelope) is seated at a carpet-covered table. Only the upper half of her figure is visible. A small loom rests on the table before her. In her right hand she holds a shuttle while her left hand manipulates the harnesses of the loom. The entire composition is framed by a delicate cusped arch supported on a pair of slender columns. Across the front edge of the table is the following inscription: PENELOPE COIVNX SEPER VLIXIS ERO.

The tapestry is woven using wool yarns in rich blues, greens, reds, and yellows with 5-6 warp threads per centimeter. “Multiple hand drawn objects” are woven across the lower part. This is the third tapestry in a series bearing arms of Ferry de Clugny.


About 1480-1483, comissioned by Ferry de Clugny (about 1430-1483), Autun, Burgundy; 1483, by deed of gift from Clugny upon his death to his nephew Guillaume de Clugny (son of his elder brother Jean); by descent to his grandson Louis de Clugny and his wife Marie de Chaugy; presumably by descent to their daughters Francoise and Jeanne, who married brothers Hugues and Nicolas de la Roque, respectively; by descent to Marie de Chaugy, wife of Jean-Jacques Le Belin; 1702, bequeathed by Le Belin to his son-in-law M. Guiet; by descent to Guiet's widow; by 1750, by descent to her daughter, Madame la Comtesse de Chamillard; 1750, sold by Chamillard to Charles-Antoine, Marquis de Clugny and seigneur de Thenissey, Côte-d'Or, France [see note 1]; by descent to his son, Victor-Francois; by descent to his son, Charles-Louis; by descent to his wife, Alexandrine de Lannoy; by 1793, with de Lannoy and her husband, Dominique de Tulle, Marquis de Villefranche, Chateau de Thenissey or Chateau de Jour near Bagneux-les-Juifs [see note 2]. By 1926, Guy de Tulle, Marquis de Villefranche or his son Henri, Chateau de Thenissey; purchased from the Marquis by the MFA with seven other related fragments for $45,000 (Accession date: March 4, 1926)

[1] Charles-Antoine was a direct descendent of Hughes, the youngest brother of Ferry de Clugny (see "Eight Fragments of Fifteenth Century Tapestry," Gertrude Townsend, in the Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, vol. XXVII, no. 159, February 1929, pp. 3). Townsend's article also provides a summary of the provenance of these fragments as she understood it, having taken her evidence from an anonymous manuscript found in the Chateau de Terrebasse, Isere, and published by the Vicomte L. de Varax, as "Les Tapisseries du Cardinal de Clugny," in Lyon in 1926. This consitutes the only known source for their complete provenance.

[2] According to notes on the previous provenance, the tapestries remained in the Chateau de Thenissey until 1791 when they were taken to the Chateau de Jour near Bagneux-les-Juifs. They were then seized and sold at auction in 1793. It has not been possible to confirm or refute this assertion. However, it seems unlikely because they remained with the de Tulle family in the Chateau de Thenissey. The citation (Jubinal, 1849, VII) has not been located. According to de Varax, these fragments are all that remains of a series of ten tapestries comissioned by the Cardinal de Clugny representing the stories of virtuous women that was destroyed in 1791 in a fire at the Chateau de Thenissey (pp. III). His text does not mention any 1793 sale.

Credit Line

Maria Antoinette Evans Fund