Publius Decius Mus Series: Publius Decius Mus is consecrated before facing Death
Author: Jan Raes II (master weaver) & Peter Paul Rubens (cartoonist)
Origin: Brussels, Flanders
Material: Wool & Silk
Dimensions (cm): 405 x 415
Inv. no.: PD0405
Decius Mus, after hearing his fate pronounced by the Roman High Priest, receives the last rites and recites the Death prayer: “Janus, Jupiter, Father Mars, ye household gods, ye newly adopted gods, ye gods of Rome, ye heavenly ones under whose power we and the enemy stand, and ye gods of the dead, I beg and implore ye: give the people of the city of Rome superior might and victory, but unleash fear, havoc and death on their enemies. As I have expressly promised here, on behalf of the state of Rome, the army and its legions, I now commend the legions of the enemy and myself to the gods of death and to the earth, as sacrifice”.
As was the custom, Decius Mus has his feet resting on top of an arrow and receives the blessing from the High Priest, dressed with an enormous red toga covering his head, highlighting the devoted tilting of his body. The brocaded mantle of the Priest, embroidered in gold and shining in the light, emphasises the solemnity of the scene.
Incidentally, in his representation of the quality of the materials, Rubens used an old Dutch tradition. The poses of the other characters involved in the scene relate to the two main figures: a witness wrapped in his mantle accompanies the Priest, while two soldiers, on the right, bring the Commander’s horse. The horse tilts its head, repeating Decius Mus’ gesture.