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Series of 4 Tapestries "Galleries and Garden Views"

This series of four pergola tapestries is a masterly example of the Galleries with pillars and flower pots tapestry type, as they are known in the archives. In each one a gallery of classical design is situated in a bucolic landscape. Four, five or eight columns with Corinthian capitals standing on a carved stone plinth support an entablature consisting of a moulded architrave and a frieze decorated with scroll-like motifs. The gallery is decorated with garlands and contains one or more large vases holding tall bouquets of a variety of flowers. In the background there are hunting scenes or couples strolling through the garden. The tapestries are signed with the Brussels municipal mark and an unidentified weaver's mark. The same unidentified mark is found on the Wonders of Wonders in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (inv.nr. 1892/92.I.12) and the Story of Cyrus in Elseneur Castle, Kronborg (Denmark).

Tapestries such as these were usually conceived as chambres de tapisseries or "tapestry rooms", that is to say, as a series of hangings of approximately the same height with a similar colour palette and language of form, as well as a consistent iconography. The origins of the Galleries with pillars and flower pots type of tapestry lay in a mid-sixteenth century theme of 'garden tapestries' that depicted the narrative of Vertumnus and Pomona, as recounted by the classical author Ovid. The god of seasons, Vertumnus, is in love with Pomona, goddess of gardens and orchards, and in wooing her adopts various disguises. The story was set against a garden background, but the disguise of Vertumnus as vineyard worker, farmer, herdsman, harvester or fruitpicker provided the rational for bringing the vine-clad pergola or gallery to the foreground. Famous examples are the tapestries produced by Pieter Coecke van Aelst around 1544.

The theme was further elaborated in the late sixteenth century and remained popular until well into the seventeenth century. Gradually a variation developed whereby large vases containing flower arrangements appeared in the opening of the pergolas. This design gave weavers the opportunity to depict in wool and silk the same prestigious and exotic plants that were favoured in floral still-life paintings on canvas. The Royal Collection Trust of England has in its collection a mid-seventeenth-century tapestry of the same type, woven in the workshop of Jacob Wauters.

This genre reflects the great interest in landscape gardening in well-to-do circles. It drew inspiration from French renaissance horticulture and integrated a number of architectural and decorative elements from the Flemish renaissance. The engravings with garden vistas that Hans Vredeman de Vries created in Antwerp in 1564 illustrate this. The chambres de tapisseries usually served as an indoor winter garden, their perspective creating a sense of space inside.

Object information

Material:
Wool and silk
Date and place:
Brussels, Belgium, ca. 1600
Dimensions:
260 x 358 cm (1)
Provenance:
Private collection J.B.D.G., Belgium, since 2000; Acquired from Axel Vervoordt, Belgium; Collection Bernard Blondeel, Antwerp, 1996.

Other dimensions: 260 x 170 cm / 272 x 175 cm / 275 x 220 cm


Literature


- REMINGTON V. & STRONG R., Painted Paradise: The Art of the Garden, catalogue of the exhibition in The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh (5 August 2016 - 26 February 2017), London 2015.


- CLELAND E., Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry, catalogue of the exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum in New York (8 October 2014 - 11 January 2015), New York 2014.

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