Cranes in the Tapestry of Prudentia

Recently, I visited the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, where three huge wall tapestries from the series on the Triumph of the Seven Virtues are currently on display. What are the seven virtues? Traditionally, they are four cardinal virtues from ancient Greek philosophy, prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, and the three theological virtues from the Christian scriptures, faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The tapestries, woven ca. 1535 in Brussels, are highly symbolic, featuring central allegorical figures. In one tapestry, Prudence is depicted as a lady in a chariot, flanked by two cranes. These cranes, like other birds, are symbolic: part of a medieval sign system that the Renaissance inherited. Because of the legends about them, cranes symbolize vigilance, order, loyalty and good works.

Can you see the cranes in this photograph of the tapestry, “The Triumph of Prudence”?


Triumph of Prudence


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