The weaver's initials are those of Frans van der Hecke (d. 1675).
The Life of Decius Mus tapestry series depicts Decius Mus and Titus Manlius leading the Roman armies against the Latins at Capua. The two generals had a vision and decided that the victory could only be achieved with the sacrifice of one of them, which was to be Decius Mus. This scene depicts Decius Mus sending off the Lictors to let Titus Manlius know that he has decided to sacrifice himself. Shortly thereafter he threw himself into battle and lost his life.
This series was the first truely baroque tapestry design and replaced the previously so popular Raphael designs of the early 16th Century such as the Acts of the Apostles (see lot 236), which continued, although to a lesser degree, to be woven throughout the 17th Century. Being Peter Paul Ruben's (d. 1640) first tapestry set, designed in 1615, it was also the first replacement of the old series by a major designer and it guided tapestry design into a new phase. Eight oil-cartoons (there appear to have existed more at one point) were bought in 1696, and still remain in the collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein in Vaduz (exhibited Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, nos. 210-217). The longest set of this series consists of fourteen tapestries, although several of them are clearly not designed by the same hand.
The series was first commissioned by Franco Cattaneo for a group of Genoese noblemen on 9 November 1616 from the ateliers of Jan Raes the elder (d. 1631) and Frans Sweerts.
This particular example was woven by Frans van der Hecke (d. 1675), who came from a long established weavers family which is known to have produced tapestries from the mid-16th to the mid-18th Century. He acquired eaving privileges in 1629, became head of the guild in 1640 and was finally tapestry supplier to the Court. He wove a number of tapestries from the Decius Mus series, one set of which remains in the Swedish Royal Collection. The cartoons for the series are even recorded in the 1675 will of Frans van der Hecke as one of the principal assets and were inherited by his son.
A set of eight tapestries from this series woven by Jan Raes and Jacob Geubels remain in the Spanish Royal Collection and are illustrated in P. Junquera de Vega and C. Diaz Gallegos, Catalogo de Tapices del Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 1986, vol. II, pp. 89-97, series 52. A further tapestry illustrating this scene and with closely related borders, by Jan Raes, was sold anonymously, Sotheby's Monaco, 19-20 June 1992, lot 833, and a further tapestry depicting The Lion Hunt by Jan Raes is illustrated in D. Heinz, Europäische Tapisseriekunst des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, Vienna, 1995, p. 21, fig. 2. A fragment illustrating The Dismissal of the Lictors by Frans van der Hecke was sold from the property of Donna Marcella Traballesi, Palazzo della Stufa, Florence, Christie's house sale, 3-4 October 1995, lot 123.