Tapesteries of Alexander the Great

Two tapestries of the great Macedonian leader and king Alexander the Great from the Villa del Principe. The tapesterys are donated to Andrea Doria by the emperor Charles V.



First tapestry: the Youth of Alexander the Great

This exceptional “cloth” and it’s companion, representing the Tales of Alexander the Great, are considered by many critics the most important tapestry of the XV century that reached present time; they were weaved around 1460 in Tournai, in the dukedom of Burgundy. The two tapestry are probably the residuals of a famous cycle weaved fore the duke of Burgundy, Filippo the Kind- and were implied with materials of great value, gold and silver, weaved with the silk and wool, representing as it’s main characters Filippo himself, in the vests of the homonym Macedonian king, and his son Carlo, in those of the young Alessandro. In the Burgundy’s court, the character of Alexander the Great – perfect Knight, fair king, and heroic conqueror of the eastern hemisphere, protagonist of fairy-tale adventures- was granted great respect. In the two great tapestry are represented many episodes of the biography and of the legend of Alexander the Great, famous for the adventurous romance of Alessandro, written in Greek language, and to it’s many medieval re-editing s. On this first cloth are described scenes of the hero’s youth: the arrival of the cruel horse Bucefalo, who ate human flesh, then tamed by Alessandro, the parting of the young hero, always represented as a knight of XV century, from his parents; the battle against Pausania who had wounded King Filippo, and that Alessandro captures and brings to his father’s bedside who from his deathbed slits his throat; the handing over of the crown to the young heir.

Second Tapestry: The Eastern Campaigns

This second Tapestry shows a significant bond between historic and mythological elements. The left side describes the conquest of the city of Tiro (332 b.C.) described as a siege of the XV century.The entire cloth reflects the Burgundy world of the XV century, in the costumes, the type of weapons , and in the stile of the buildings. Between the crowd of characters you can distinguish Alessandro, recognizable by the beaver surmounted by the crown, next to the defeated enemy: The old man with a white beard, that in sine of defeat holds his sward by the tip of it’s blade. At the center of the tapestry is represented a completely different episode, drawn by the mythical side of the character, and described in the “Romance of Alessandro” the antique text written in Greek containing the majority of legends regarding the hero, divulged in medieval period thanks to Latin and vulgar texts: The sovereign, sitting in a golden cage decorated with precious stones, holds two long red rods on which gammons are speared. Four Griffins are chained to the cage and in the intent of reaching the meat flap their wings vigorously and lift their chained load higher and higher into the sky. God, Father of men, surrounded by red angels attends the scene. On earth five characters comment the courageous gestures of their king. But the thirst for knowledge of Alessandro in not quenched: He wants to explore the depths of the oceans. The hero has himself lowered till the ocean bottom in a glass barrel, holding two torches in his hands to lighten up the darkness of the seas. At last, in the lower right corner, the last chapter of the Romance is represented: The Macedonian, once conquered all the people of the world, reaches the borders of the earth and with his disciples kills the monsters that inhabit them between which live, the” Blemmi”, creatures without a head covered with a thick vellum, and with eyes and mouths in the middle of their chests.

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