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The Fable of Arachne, or The Tapestry Weavers

  • ‘The Fable of Arachne or The Tapestry Weavers’ © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

    ‘The Fable of Arachne or The Tapestry Weavers’ © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado





1655 - 1660

Cultural background

Spanish School

Original title

La fábula de Aracne, o Las Hilanderas
Prado Museum

A masterpiece by Velázquez. It has a highly complex iconography. It represents the myth of Arachne under the guise of an everyday scene in the Santa Isabel Royal Tapestry Factory.

It has been interpreted as an allegory of the noble vocation of painting and an affirmation of the supremacy of Velázquez himself.

The myth is depicted on two planes. In the background, the rape of Europa is shown woven into the tapestry hanging on the wall, and in front, Athenea is seen chastising Arachne. The women observing this, who could be mistaken for customers of the factory, are in fact the young Lydians who witnessed the incident. The spinners in the foreground are thought to represent the competition between Athenea (spinning at the wheel) and Arachne (winding a skein).

The work was damaged in the fire in the 1734 fire in the Alcázar palace in Madrid and during the restoration the dimensions were altered.

Details of the work

Royal Collection


220 cm x 289 cm




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