The Triumph of Time over Fame
The aesthetics of this tapestry did not appeal to me, so I'm glad I happened to glance at the title of the piece and discovered its theme: the ephemeral nature of fame.
Many years ago I found an amazing statue of a Fame Goddess (pictured below) in the nursery of Cardiff Castle in Wales. She has all of the characteristics one might associate with a deity, but is comically adorned with the ears of an ass. I was so struck by the high-relief statuette that I later made a special journey with a friend back to Cardiff to take a picture of it, despite photography being prohibited inside the castle.
So it was to my great surprise and pleasure that I found the tapestry The Triumph of Time over Fame at the Metropolitan Museum today. It illustrates a concept which is unfortunately rather esoteric these days: that fame perhaps lacks lasting value.
Following is from the item description:
An old man representing Time commands a chariot that crushes Fame beneath its wheels. Four famous long-lived men accompany him on foot: the biblical figures of Adam, Methusalah, and Noah as well as Nestor, from Greek mythology. The humbling theme that fame ultimately is lost to the passage of time derives from I Trionfi (The Triumphs), by the fourteenth-century Italian poet Petrarch. By about 1500, it had been translated into French for Louis XII and pictured in royal tapestries. This tapestry is one of a series from the chateau de Septmonts, the residence of the bishops of Soissons. Bishop Symphorien de Bullioud, who was familiar with Italian culture because of his diplomatic missions to Rome and Milan for Louis XII, likely commissioned the work.
Following are detail shots showing Fame being crushed under wheels; the four long-lived men flanking the chariot; and - perhaps most interestingly - broken trumpets underneath the hooves of reindeer who are pulling the chariot. The trumpets echo those shown in the Cardiff Castle Fame Goddess pictured last.
Fame Goddess (my denomination) relief in the nursery at Cardiff Castle in Wales.