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Tapestry 'Wedding Celebration of Alexander the Great and Stateira'

Unknown16th Century

National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania

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

The tapestry depicts the wedding of Alexander of Macedon, known as Alexander the Great, and Stateira, after a loose interpretation of a text by Plutarch (Plutarch’s The Life of Alexander from the series Parallel Biographies). Alexander married off his fellow men in Susa: he offered the hands of the finest girls to his finest men, while he married Stateira, the daughter of the King of Persia, Darius. He organized a grand wedding feast, and all that took place during that celebration was wonderful.
In the foreground of the tapestry, a little right of centre, we see the couple, Alexander the Great and Stateira. Alexander is wearing embossed metal armour and is wrapped in an elaborate red chlamide. His helmet is decorated with ostrich feathers and the figure of a reclining lion. Stateira is wearing an elegant, richly ornamented and gold embroidered dress with a waist-hugging bodice. Her head is adorned with a diadem and strings of pearls. Behind the newlyweds stands a group of warriors wearing Greek and Roman military costumes with shields and spears. On the left in the foreground a lady is gazing at Stateira and several men in Eastern clothes speaking amongst themselves. In the centre of the background, we see two bounding horsemen blowing trumpets. Further away, in the top part of the scene are two corteges of horsemen moving in opposite directions from the centre towards the edges of the composition. The horizon is filled with hills bathed in golden sunlight, trees, small fragments of a city and the sky.
The central part is surrounded by a light-coloured border, decorated with delicate plant elements and small figures of 'putti' or sirens. In the corners of the border the four main virtues are depicted, three of which are recognizable: Justice in the bottom left, Prudence in the bottom right, and Temperance in the top right. The other lesser virtues, or personifications of the seasons, either crowned with flowers or holding plants, are depicted seated on the top and bottom horizontal borders (two on each) and in the centres of the side borders. Figurative mise-en-scènes are composed from the landscape or the architectonic frames, consisting of hermes holding small arches with creeping plants. The completeness of the composition has been damaged. A fragment of about 150 cm has been cut out of the central part at some time, while the right and left parts of the tapestry have been re-attached. A continuous, vertical, newly-woven strip can be noticed where the join is found. When analyzing the surviving replicas it may be assumed that the central part of the textile must have featured an outdoor arena where the seated audience would have watched the equestrian tournament taking place in the centre. It is from behind the podium that the corteges of horsemen appear, which in the acquired tapestry seem to illogically emerge from the depths of the landscape.
According to Nello Forti-Grazzini, the tapestry cartoon, with small variations, was created after an illustration by Maerten de Vos (1532–1603) on a cortege theme which thus far is the only identified preliminary model for this series of sketches of The Story of Alexander the Great. A graphical preliminary model, in the view of N. Forti-Grazzini, was created in around 1580 and at present belongs to The Morgan Library & Museum in New York.
The tapestry was owned by the Florentine Bellini brothers who are antique experts. Later, in 1949–1950, it was purchased from them and later belonged to a private collection in Bergamo.

Details

  • Title: Tapestry 'Wedding Celebration of Alexander the Great and Stateira'
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: 16th Century
  • Location Created: Brussels, Belgium
  • Physical Dimensions: 354 x 363 cm
  • Type: Tapestry
  • Rights: National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania
  • Medium: Wool, Silk

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