Tapestry: Ulysses Homeward Bound, 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


144.8 x 21.6 cm (57 x 8.5 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Tapestry weave (wool warp; wool wefts)

Not On View


Europe, Textiles and Fashion Arts



In the center foreground, a richly dressed man stands on the bow of a sailing vessel. He is identified as Ulysses by the scarf across his breast inscribed with FACVDVS VLIXES (“Resourceful Ulysses). He holds a pole in his right hand and rests his left hand on the shoulder of a leopard. Behind him, at the left, two sailors sound trumpets; two others handle rigging lines at the right.

NOTE: it is believed that the armorial shields represented in this set of tapestries refer to the families allied with that 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