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Tapestry 'Alexander the Great and the Murder of Cleitus'

Unknown1520

National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
Vilnius, Lithuania

One of a handful of the oldest Gothic tapestries in Lithuania, kept at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, was created in 1520 in France. The tapestry could have been a fragment of a larger artistic textile that was part of a tapestry series telling the story of Alexander the Great.
The story depicted in the tapestry goes back to 328 BC, to the city of Maracanda, where a drama that ended in tragedy unfolded between Alexander the Great and his friend and general-in-arms, Cleitus, who had saved Alexander's life six years prior in a battle at Garnicus. The friends became embroiled in a quarrel while feasting and exchanged insults, whereupon Alexander, caught up in a rage, struck Cleitus with a spear. Realising what he had done, Alexander wanted to kill himself but was restrained by guards. This concise description of the scene often depicted in iconography is featured in the tapestry kept at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.
The story is told in several scenes. People are shown wearing clothing not from their times but from the epoch when the tapestry was created, as was commonly done. However, the main characters are clearly recognisable from their names that have been woven into the textile near them. The tapestry also features a wagon overgrown with bunches of grapes, drawn by tigers and lynxes. An inscription 'IOYEVSETE' meaning “mirth” is visible under the wagon wheel, while Euphrosyne, the Greek goddess of happiness and joy, is probably depicted in the wagon.

Details

  • Title: Tapestry 'Alexander the Great and the Murder of Cleitus'
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 1520
  • Location Created: France
  • Physical Dimensions: 287 x 274 cm
  • Type: Tapestry
  • Rights: National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
  • Medium: Silk, Wool

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