8899 Brussels Tapestry 10ft 8in x 13ft 3in  (409 x 324 cm)

Zeus and Hera Handed The World

17th century

Zeus is the mighty bearded man seated on his throne with an eagle holding a thunderbolt at his right shoulder, Hera holding a scepter, and Eros lifting a globe.  The entire over life size composition is framed within elaborate floral and foliate architectural borders composed of garland and cherubs, with a caryatid holding a cornucopia, a satyr in the shape of Dionysus pouring wine from an ewer.

Zeus (whose Roman name is Jupiter) is the Ruler of Heaven and Earth, of all other gods, and of all men.  The Greeks respected him for his protection of the weak, his justice, wisdom and power.  They also understood his passions and infidelities, which rendered him more human and easier to understand.  Zeus is a god of light and sky, and his attribute is the lightning bolt.  The eagle is both his symbol and his messenger.

One of the eight wives of Zeus is Hera (Juno is her Roman name).  She is the Queen of gods, the Goddess of Marriage and Maternity, and represents the idealized wife.  Hera is a figure of majesty, wearing a diadem on her head.  Her attributes are a scepter surmounted by a cuckoo, the pomegranate and the peacock.

Eros (Cupid) is the God of Love, a small, winged boy, blindfolded, carrying bow and arrows.  His arrows pierce the heart, causing the victim fall in love.  Eros is the youngest of all gods, and some traditions relate that he was born from a silver egg.  His Roman name Cupid is derived from the Latin cupido, meaning “desire”.

A strikingly similar version of this tapestry is illustrated in Jack Francis, Tapestries and their Mythology, New York: Drake Publishers Inc., 1975.

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