Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Title: The Whore of Babylon Seated on the Waters
  • Creator: Designed by Jean Bondol, artist; executed by Nicolas Bataille
  • Description: "This panel from a monumental fourteenth-century tapestry depicting the Book of Revelation represents Revelation17:1-2, the moment in which John first sees the Whore of Babylon seated upon many waters. On the panel, Babylon sits upon tiers of waves dressed in a rose-colored gown girded with a jeweled belt. She combs her loose blonde hair and gazes intently at her reflection in a mirror. In the full scene John and the angel approach from an abstract architectural element to the left and the angel gestures toward the self-absorbed woman. A vine pattern with the letter ‘Y’ in mandorlas winds through the background of the scene. The tapestry of which this panel forms a part was commissioned by Louis I, Count of Anjou (1339-1384), designed by a Flemish manuscript illuminator named Jean Bondol, and executed by Parisian weaver Nicolas Bataille and his workshop. Though the original occasion for the creation of the tapestry remains unknown, in 1400 it was displayed outdoors to the public during the wedding of Louis’s son to Yolande of Aragon. By 1480, the tapestry hung in Angers Cathedral. The tapestry sequence draws upon the rich medieval tradition of illuminated manuscripts of the Book of Revelation, and the representation of Babylon conforms to earlier types that present her as the embodiment of sin, especially the sins of luxury, vanity, and pride. Babylon’s self-reflexive gaze and her apparent disinterest in the men who look at her underscore her intense vanity. Her rich attire and the effort she expends on combing her hair both demonstrate her indulgence in material wealth and her proud appearance. The mysterious Y in the mandorlas may stand for Yolande, yet the tapestry’s commission pre-dates Yolande’s marriage to Louis’s son and the choice to associate her with Babylon seems odd. The Y instead could be a Pythagorean letter that signaled the division of vice from virtue (Graham, 1947). "
  • Source: World Images
  • Rights: Public Domain
  • Subject (See Also): Allegory Apocalypse Babylon the Great Bible- New Testament- Book of Revelation Embroidery Great Whore of Babylon Tapestries Textiles Vanity Vices Visions
  • Geographic Area: France
  • Century: 14
  • Date: 1377-82
  • Related Work:
  • Current Location: Angers, Château d'Angers
  • Original Location: France, W., Angers
  • Artistic Type (Category): Digital Images; Textiles
  • Artistic Type (Material/Technique): Gilt thread; Silk; Silver thread; Wool
  • Donor: Layman; Louis I, Count of Anjou
  • Height/Width/Length(cm): 610/2400/
  • Inscription:
  • Related Resources: Benton, Janette Rebold. Materials, Methods and Masterpieces of Medieval Art. Prager, 2001. pp. 195, 199; Graham, Rose. "The Apocalypse Tapestries from Angers," Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 89:533 (1947), pp. 227; Henderson, George. "The Manuscript Model of the Angers Apocalypse Tapestries," Burlington Magazine 127 (1985), pp. 209-18; Laskaya, Anne. "The Feminized World and Divine Violence: Texts and Images of the Apocalypse," in Domestic Violence in Medieval Texts, ed. Eve Salisbury, Georgiana Donavin, and Merrall Llewelyn Price. University Press of Florida, 2002, pp. 299-341; Manion, Margaret. "The Angers Tapestries of the Apocalypse and Valois Patronage," in Prophecy, Apocalypse, and the Day of Doom, ed. Nigel Morgan. Shaun Tyas, 2004, pp. 220-38; Muir Wright, Rosemary. "The Great Whore in the Illustrated Apocalypse Cycles," Journal of Medieval History 23:3 (1997), pp.191-210; O'Hear, Natasha F. H. Contrasting Images of the Book of Revelation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Art. Oxford University Press, 2011. pp. 43-67