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PROPERTY OF A EUROPEAN GENTLEMAN

'April', A Flemish medallion months tapestry, Brussels, early 16th century, unidentified designer, from the circle of Bernard van Orley (c. 1488–1541)

  circa 1525
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70

PROPERTY OF A EUROPEAN GENTLEMAN

'April', A Flemish medallion months tapestry, Brussels, early 16th century, unidentified designer, from the circle of Bernard van Orley (c. 1488–1541)

  circa 1525
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

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'April', A Flemish medallion months tapestry, Brussels, early 16th century, unidentified designer, from the circle of Bernard van Orley (c. 1488–1541)

  circa 1525
the central medallion encloses a vignette of activities pertinent to the month of April, overlooked by the figure of Flora (Roman goddess of flowers and Spring, holding a vase of flowers and identified by the inscription), the traditional classical deity associated with the month, who seated in the clouds observes a richly attired nobleman on horseback along with his lady riding side-saddle behind him, in the background the land is been ploughed and seeds sown, and a family looks on, with a child holding a flower and basket, in a landscape brimming with flowers, budding trees and mushrooms, all characteristic of April, the round band encircling the central medallion has winged cherubs alternating with stars, on a soft blue ground, with a bull symbolic of the zodiac Taurus at the top, the upper spandrels with allegorical figural depictions of southerly and easterly winds, Notus and Eolus (Aeolus), and the lower spandrels with a woman weaving a crown of flowers and a man sowing seeds, all within a four-sided compartmentalised border of ribbon bound garlands of fruits and flowers, with further narrow inner and outer yellow and blue twisted borders, the upper corners of the tapestry enclose a snail and the lower corners have masks, with further narrow madder selvedges
approximately 379cm. high, 436cm. wide; 12ft. 5in., 14ft. 3in.
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Provenance

Imperial Admiral Andrea Doria, Palazzo Doria in Fassolo (Genoa)
By descent to Giovanni Andrea III Doria Landi who transferred them to Rome to adorn his Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, circa 1741
By descent to Guendalina Doria Pamphilj Landi who inherited them in 1876
Thence by descent
Sold Finarte Gallery, Milan, 6-9 March 1967
Boccara Collection, Paris
Bernadout Collection, Paris
Thence by inheritance, until sold to present owner

Literature

Adelson, Candace, European Tapestry in The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 1994, pp. 85- 88
Boccara, Dario, Les Belles Heures de la tapisserie, Zug, 1971, p.60
Boccardo, Andrea, Doria e le Arti, Rome, 1989, pp. 79 and 168 (inventory of 1561)
Forti Grazzini, Nello, Museo d'Arti Applicate, Arazzi, Milan, 1984, p. 52.
Standen, Edith, European Post-Medieval Tapestries and Related Hangings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985, Vol. I, pp. 45-53.

Catalogue Note

This tapestry is presumably one of the seven surviving from the Medallion Month series that once belonged to the collection of Admiral Andrea Doria Pamphilij of Genoa. Although allegorical representations of months and seasons have been seen in medieval tapestries, the Trivulzio Months woven near Milan during the Renaissance between 1504 and 1512 are the first known series to depict each month separately. The second identified series is the Medallion Months, of which this Month of April is a part, which was woven in Brussels around 1525-28. Three partial and slightly different sets of Medallion Months tapestries are known to have been handed down and all have extant examples of the Month of April. Apart from the Month of April shown there, the Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington DC, displays a Month of April tapestry, which is possibly one of the “editio princeps”, from the set belonging to the Cardinal Erard de la Marck in 1531. There are five other tapestries from this edition in other American institutions: the month of ‘September’ in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, ‘August’ and ‘October’ in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New Work and months of ‘February’ and ‘July’ in the Art Institute of Chicago. The deities, personification and vignettes associated with the month of April are the same as the Doria Pamphilij edition. However there is one significant difference that sets apart the Doria Pamphilij edition. The set belonging to the Doria Pamphilij family is the only edition with a round cartouche and a band decorated with the cherubim and crosses. The other two editions have more oval medallions and the band surrounding the central cartouche contains all twelve signs of the zodiac that alternate with twelve pairs of female figures with loosely flowing drapery, holding hourglasses to personify the passage of time. At the centre is the symbol of the zodiac month the tapestry represents along with an inscription of the month. Unlike the even blue ground of Doria Pamphilij edition, in the other two editions the ground colour changes from a very light blue to a deep blue with stars to symbolise the hours of daylight expected in the particular months and the bands even have a thin beige outer border with spaced out numbers depicting the hours of the day and an inner border divided in red and black lines signifying the passage of time. The same is true for the second edition, the only known version of this series without the four corner figures and landscapes, that has only one surviving example which is in month of ‘April’ in the Rijksmuseum. The coarser drawing of the tree-trunks overgrown with ivy and the missing corner figures suggest that the original cartoon was adapted by a less skilled painter in the workshop that produced this edition. 

In the past, the design for this series was attributed to Bernard van Orley. However, further study has revealed a marked Italian renaissance influence in the works of van Orley works and has shifted the attribution to an artist from the circle of van Orley. The affinity to the works of the Flemish artist and the high quality of the weaving attributes this to a skilled Brussels workshop, even in the absence of a Brussels mark. The two other known editions of this series also do not have the Brussels marks in their borders, indicating all three sets were produced before 1528 when weaving of Brussels mark into every tapestry produced became compulsory. 

The Doria Pamphilij edition, was initially thought to be the “editio princeps”, mostly due to the status and fame of their owner. But later scholarship revealed the complex iconography for the oval medallion of the Cardinal Erard de la Marck has more symbolism and are the original commission. It is most likely that Doria ordered these for a particular part of his palace which resulted in a slight difference in dimensions of the two editions and probably resulted in changing the oval medallion to a round and the cherub heads replacing the Zodiac signs and women with hourglasses. The series was passed on to the descendants of Andrea Dora Pamphilij and are those recorded in different places; this offered tapestry was sold at auction by the family in 1967. Three tapestries from the set, comprising of the months of January, February and August, are owned by Prince Filippo Doria Pamphilij and are displayed in the Villa del Principe (Palazzo di Andrea Doria) in Genoa. The month of October is in Palazzo Pallavicini in Genoa and another two are displayed in the Villa Spalletti Trivella, a hotel in Rome. The month of 'December' from this series was sold at Christies, London, 15 November 2001, lot 250. All six of these tapestries have the distinctive round bands with cherub head on a pale blue ground, as opposed to all of the signs of the Zodiac, found on other series. 

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