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Prince of Malice and his Court

Flemish, Late Gothic
ca. 1470 - 1480
345.44 cm x 454.66 cm (136 in. x 179 in.)
wool and silk on wool

On view


This Flemish tapestry was most likely made in Brussels in the Southern Netherlands (now Belgium). It is either a fragment of a larger tapestry or part of an allegorical series depicting the struggle between good and evil. Its central subject concerns various vices as personified by male courtiers attending to the bearded Prince of Malice (inscribed “le pri[n]ce de malice”) who sits enthroned, sumptuously robed, and with a crown and scepter. The courtier “vices” include, to the left, avarice (avarice) holding a gilt and jeweled chalice, orgoeul (pride) holding a mirror, malebouche (falsehood), who wears a red plume in his hat, discort (discord) in a blue robe, and despit (spite) in a red robe. Below are seen peche (sin) speaking in agitation to yre (wrath) and faux report (rumor). To the right are flaterie (flattery), gloutonne (gluttony) with a wine ewer, barat (fraud), trayson (treason) in a red pointed hat, envie (envy), ipocrisie (hypocrisy), luxure (luxury), and three others who are unidentified.

To the left of this court of malice is a portion of what most likely is the court of virtue. In a crenellated tower is seen the female personification prudence (prudence) in armor, brandishing a sword toward the court of the Prince of Malice. Standing at a gate are castite (chastity) in a crimson robe, hu[m]ilite (humility), bonte (bounty), and sobresce (sobriety). Below them atempranse (temperance) is in red armor and carite (charity) is in blue armor. Three angels stand to the left.

A tapestry fragment in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1926-45-1) depicts ships approaching a fortified harbor with two towers, each guarded by a female in armor, one labeled esperance (hope). The scholar J.-P. Asselberghs believes that this fragment originally formed part of the left side of either the Dumbarton Oaks tapestry or one very much like it.

J. Carder

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, Bulletin 12 (August, 1917), 179.

Hunter, George Leland. The Practical Book of Tapestries. New York: 1925, 42-43, pl. 5H.

Cavallo, Adolfo S. "The Procession of Gula, A Flemish Tapestry." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 32, no. 4 (1952-53), 88.

Stedlijk Museum, Aspecten Van de Laatgotick in Brabant, 1971, 599.

Asselberghs, Jean-Paul. Les tapisseries flamandes aux Etats-Unis d'Amerique. Brussels: 1974, 45, fig. 32.

Centre de la Tapisserie Bruxelloise, Tapisseries bruxelloises de la pré-Renaissance: exposition, Bruxelles, 22 janvier-7 mars 1976. Brussels: 1976, 178, fig. 6.

Callmann, Ellen. Beyond Nobility, Art for the Private Citizen in the Early Renaissance. Allentown Art Museum, 1980, 80.

Delmarcel, Guy. Flemish Tapestry from the 15th to the 18th Century. Tielt: 1999, 52, ill. 50-51.

Martinson, Patricia. "Tapestries in Transition." Arts, Magazine of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (July-August 2005), 16-17, ill.

Bühl, Gudrun, editor. Dumbarton Oaks, The Collections. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (distributed by Harvard University Press), 2008, 334f, ill.

Exhibition History
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, 1917-1918.

William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City, KS, 3/13/1942-10/18/1944.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MN, 2005-2008.

Acquisition History
Collection of Edson Bradley (1852-1935), Washington, DC;

Purchased from French & Co., New York, NY (dealer), by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, August 1935;

Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, DC;

Transferred to Harvard University, November 29, 1940;

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC

Angels | Avarice | Bounty | Charity | Chastity | Discord | Envy | Falsehood | Flattery | Fraud | Gluttony | Humility | Hypocrisy | Pride | Rumor | Sobriety | Spite | Temperance | Vices | Virtues | Wrath