Perseus, son of Danaë, whom Jupiter caused to conceive after visiting her disguised as a shower of golden rain, is best known for his beheading of the snake-haired Gorgon, Medusa, and for rescuing Andromeda. The scene depicted here is during Perseus' wedding to Andromeda, when he used Medusa's head to turn Phineus (who had originally been promised to Andromeda by her parents) and his followers to stone. The subject derives from Ovid's Metamorphoses. Perseus as a tapestry subject was highly-sought after during this period and the records of the Antwerp merchant Nicolas Naulaerts of the late 17th and early 18th Centuries indicate that at least twenty sets of this series were woven between 1699 and 1707. There are probably three very similar series of the story of Perseus that were woven around 1700. An invoice of 18 December 1704 mentions 'Landscapes with staffage of small figures, of the history of Perseus and Andromeda', woven by Jacob van der Goten in Antwerp, five ells high and records six subjects, including this subject. A second group of tapestries woven in Brussels depicting The Story of Perseus is attributed to Lodewijk van Schoor (d. 1726) and the landscape painter Lucas Achtschellinck (d. 1699), examples of which are in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. In addition a third version treating the same subject in six tapestries is also mentioned by the marchand Forchoud of Antwerp in 1702, 1703 and 1709. (N. Forti-Grazzini, Il Patrimonio Artistico del Quirinale, Gli Arazzi, Rome, 1994, II, p. 354).
A tapestry from the same series and with the same borders as the present example and depicting Perseus receiving the winged Sandals from Mercury was sold anonymously, Sotheby's, London, 30 November 1990, lot 23. A further tapestry with identical borders, from the series of Ulysses and Circe and depicting Mercury showing Ulysses the magic Plant was offered, Sotheby's, London, 10 December 1993, lot 15. It is interesting to note that the designer, Pieter Ykens (d. 1695), who is recorded as having collaborated with the landscape painter Pieter Spierincx (d. 1711; see G.Delmarcel, Flemish Tapestry, Tielt, 1999, p. 263), is known to have designed a tapestry treating the subject of Circe. The extremely close similarities of the above Mercury showing Ulysses the magic Plant to the present tapestry suggests that both sets were designed by the same artist. The absence of a tapestry that can be compared to that of Perseus receiving the winged Sandals from Mercury in the invoice of 1704 which mentions Jacob van der Goten, indicates that this tapestry is most probably from the set mentioned by the marchand Forchoud in the early 18th Century.
A tapestry depicting the same subject as the present lot, but of different design and probably from the set produced by Jacob van der Goten, is illustrated in Delmarcel, op. cit., p. 262.