Depicting 'The Interpretation of the Victim for Decius Mus' from the series 'Life of Decius Mus'
The life of Decius Mus tapestry series depicts Decius Mus and Titus Manilus leading the Roman armies against the Latins at Capua (340-338 BC.) Both consuls had a dream in which a giant predicted that the leader of the one people and the army of the other would be sacrificed to the underworld. Consequently, one of the two leaders of the Roman army had to be prepared to lay down his life should the army of the adversary suffer defeat, this story was portrayed as an example of patriotism.
This panel is the second of a set that usually consists of approximately eight panels.
It depicts Decius Mus realizing that he will be the one to die.
Franco Cattaneo first commissioned the set for a group of Genoese noblemen on 9 November 1616 from the ateliers of Jan Raes (d. 1640) and Frans Sweerts. The contract stated that Rubens was to make the patterns, but also to judge the quality of the weaving which would have an effect on the price of the tapestries. (D. Heinz, Europaische Tappisseriekunst des 17. Und 18. Jorhunderts, Vienna, 1995, pp.40 -42.)
This series was the first truly baroque tapestry design and replaced the Raphael designs of the early 16th century such as the Acts of the Apostles, which previously had been very popular and continued to be woven throughout the 17th century. Being Peter Paul Rubens (d. 1640) first tapestry set, designed in 1615, it was also the first replacement of the old series by a major designer and it guided tapestry design into a new phase. Six oil paintings that served as basis for the cartoons were bought in 1696, and still remain in the collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein in Vaduz. (Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, no. 210-217).
428cm x 380cm