Tapestry: The Anger of Achilles Against Agamemnon (from the series The Story of Achilles)

Flemish
Probably third quarter of the 17th century, 1650–75
Designed by Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640), Woven by Jan van Leefdael (Netherlandish)


Object Place: Brussels, Flanders

Dimensions

417.19 x 385.44 cm (164 1/4 x 151 3/4 in.)

Accession Number

30.483

Medium or Technique

Tapestry weave (wool warp; wool, silk and gilt(?) silver wefts)

Not On View

Collections

Europe, Textiles and Fashion Arts

Classifications

Textiles

This is one of two tapestries in the MFA-Boston collection from the series THE STORY OF ACHILLES. The subject of this weaving derives from Homer’s Iliad, Book I. Agamemnon decides that if his lovely captive Chryseis is to be sent back to her father, Chryses, then he will take Briseis, Achilles’ enchanting captive. Achilles, enraged by this pronouncement, draws his sword to attack Agamemnon, but Minerva (whom Juno sent to prevent violence) restrains him. The scene in the tapestry takes place on a dais under or before a tent. In the center background, Agamemnon begins to rise from his throne but is dissuaded by the elderly Nestor and two other men who approach from the right. In the forward left corner, Achilles is about to draw his sword and turns to face the floating half-figure of Minerva, who grasps his hair. The foreground plane shows the proscenium of terminal figures-and-cornice. In this case, the terminal figure at the left represents Blind Passion, and the one at the right probably represents Envy. Two garlands of leaves, grasped at the centers by putti, decorate the cornice and flank the oval cartouche in the center which is inscribed as follows:
ABSTINET A FERRO AE ACIDES RETINENTE MINERVA (“Achilles abstains from the sword because Minerva restrains him.”) A great lion lies chained in the center foreground. It may be intended as a symbol of Achilles’ violence being held in check or as an allusion to his been fed on the entrails of lions when he was a child.

Inscription

See Description above.

Provenance

Charles Mather Ffoulke is said to have purchased both tapestries from an unidentified dealer in Munich (unpublished letters.) The dealer did not specify the source, but stated that the tapestries came from a "royal house." Collection Charles Mather Ffoulke, Washington, D.C. Collection French and Company, New York. Collection George Robert White, Boston. Collection Mrs. Harriet J. Bradbury, Boston. Bequest of Mrs. Harriet J. Bradbury, July 3, 1930.

Credit Line

Bequest of Mrs. Harriet J. Bradbury