This tapestry, made in a Brussels factory, is a unique piece in the collection. It tells a story based on a myth from classical antiquity and adapted by Ovid for his work Metamorphoses.
According to mythology, Venus was created from the foam of the waves. Jupiter decided to marry her to Vulcan, the despised god of fire and the forge, in order to calm the numerous and over-powering passions she aroused in the hearts of the gods. Nevertheless, the marriage did not stop her from having a love affair with Mars. The god of war chose Alectryon to act as a watchman to alert him at sunrise, thus preventing the discovery of his secret meetings with Venus. One day Alectryon fell asleep and Helius, the sun god, quickly warned Vulcan. Seething with anger and jealousy, Vulcan decided to shame the lovers by forging an iron chain to tie them up and asked the other gods to testify as to their sinful infidelity. Humiliated, Mars swore vengeance and transformed Alectryon into a rooster so he could announce the sunrise on time every day!

It was usual for these Flemish tapestries to depict floral motifs, adopted for their ornamental beauty and symbolic importance so reinforcing the narrative; their exotic appearance or their rarity also revealing the owner’s economic and social standing. Here we see an oak, a sacred tree whose forests the Romans dedicated to various gods; the fig tree that could be dedicated to Mars, and the apple tree signifying ‘the blindness of passion’. The orange, quince, pear, pomegranate and apple are all fruits symbolizing love and happiness and are therefore dedicated to Venus. The rose is considered as her flower having appeared in connection with her birth, while the myrtle is a bush whose perfume is dedicated to her. The work belonged to the Sé de Coimbra. It may seem strange that this profane scene could adorn the sacred area of a church, but here it conveys a moral advocating the duty of loyalty to others and to one’s commitments.