Where did the tapestry come from ?

The 'Triumph of Fortitude' has had a long and mysterious history. From its origins in 16th century Europe to its present home in the Walker Art Gallery, the tapestry| has passed through many hands and hung in many locations.

The 16th century was the 'Golden Age' of Flemish| tapestry production, when many fine works were created by highly skilled weavers in numerous workshops across what is now Belgium and the Netherlands.

Illustration of two Brussels marks
Illustration of two Brussels marks

We cannot say which particular workshop produced 'The Triumph of Fortitude', as it contains no Weaver's Marks|. However, it was probably woven in Brussels|, as others from the same series bear the Brussels mark|. This helps us date the tapestry to before 1528, as after then it became compulsory to include the Brussels mark on new tapestries woven in the city.

We do not know who originally owned 'The Triumph of Fortitude', but as part of an expensive set of seven tapestries called 'The Triumph of the Virtues', it would certainly have belonged to a wealthy person. Empress Isabella, wife of the Habsburg emperor Charles V of Spain is known to have owned a set of the 'Virtues'. When she died in 1539 they were passed down through the Spanish royal family, before being lost to history. Perhaps 'The Triumph of Fortitude' was part of that very set?

Having purchased the tapestry privately from a Spanish collector in 1933, 'The Triumph of Fortitude' hung in the residence of the British Ambassador to Cairo, Sir Ronald Storrs. It was later sold by Sir Ronald to Martins Bank Limited, who presented the tapestry as an anonymous donation to the Walker Art Gallery in 1953.

Given the tapestry's great age, care has been taken to ensure that it is maintained and cared for as well as possible. In 1961, it was surface cleaned, repaired and mothproofed by conservators at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. More extensive cleaning and repairs were carried out between 1983 and 1985 at the Hampton Court Conservation Centre. Today its condition is maintained through control of the gallery's temperature and humidity| and by regular checks on the fabric.

Head of Cyrus - Before Cleaning

Head of Cyrus after cleaning
Head of Cyrus - After Cleaning