The Massacre at Jerusalem, from The Story of Titus and Vespasian

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After a design by Charles Poerson (1609–1667)
Woven at the workshop of Gerard Peemans (1637/39–1725)
Flanders, Brussels

The Massacre at Jerusalem, from The Story of Titus and Vespasian, 1650/75

Wool and silk, slit, dovetailed and double interlocking tapestry weave
514 x 367.7 cm (202 3/8 x 144 3/4 in.)
Gift of Marshall Field and Company, 1952.1243

This tapestry belongs to the eight-piece Story of Titus and Vespasian suite designed by Charles Poerson, who practiced the French academic-decorative manner that supplanted the dramatic and monumental Flemish High Baroque. Poerson clearly based the series on book two of Tacitus’s The Jewish War (c. A.D. 75–79). Both Vespasian and his son Titus led the Roman troops during the First Jewish-Roman War (A.D. 66–73), a major rebellion by the Jews of Judaea against the Roman Empire. This tapestry depicts the massacre that took place at Jerusalem six months after the initial siege. The Arabian and Syrian soldiers who were part of Titus’s army slaughtered the Jews who were attempting to flee, cutting open their victims’ bellies to get the gold coins some of them had swallowed before surrendering to the Romans. Titus can by seen on horseback, in the background on the right, rushing to stop the carnage.

— Exhibition label, The Divine Art: Four Centuries of European Tapestries, November 1, 2008–January 4, 2009, Regenstein Hall.