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
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