inspired by the Shakespearean play The Merry Wives of Windsor, woven depicting Anne Page inviting Slender into her home, both in Elizabethan dress, within a four-sided rectangular and square compartmentalised border with alternating fruiting branches and sprays of flowers on a dark blue ground, the lower border with the narrative scroll inscribed Slender and Page with the Windsor mark, date and N.7/ H.Henry M. Brignolas, in the bottom right corner and signature T.W.Hay within the tapestry panel
The series of eight depicting the Merry Wives of Windsor, were commissioned by Gillows & Co., Oxford Street, London for the decoration of the Dining Saloon in the Prince of Wales Suite in the British Pavilion at the 1878 Exposition Universelle, Paris, and won a gold medal for tapestries. They were exhibited along with a Tapestry Portrait of Queen Victoria, which was based on a cartoon produced by the painter Phoebus Levin, a German painter in London (1855-78), which copied the portrait painted by Baron Heinrich von Angeli (1840-1925), and at Windsor Castle.
Series of nice exhibited Windsor Guildhall, December 1878.
The series of eight Merry Wives of Windsor tapestries and the tapestry portrait of Queen Victoria, were subsequently purchased by Sir Albert Sassoon, Bt., for 25 Kensington Gore, London.
The tapestry panel depicting Anne Page and Slender (No.7), is unrecorded from this point, until sold at auction, Christie’s, London, 11 July 1990, lot 104, thence by descent.
Queen Victoria (No. 1), from circa 1957 was known to hang in office of Mr Bryan Adams, Victoria Street, London, before being sold at Sotheby’s, London, 7 June 1968, lot 42. Presently owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Remaining set of seven (without Queen Victoria and Anne Page and Slender) sold in 1912 by Sir Philip Sassoon, Bt., MP, to Messrs. Vincent Robinson & Co., Ltd., Oriental Carpet Merchants, 34 Wigmore Street, London
Remaining set of seven sold in 1920, to Colonel H.K. Stephenson, DSO., MP., Banner Cross Hall, Sheffield and later, Hassop Hall, Bakewell, Derbyshire
Remaining set of seven sold in 1954, and acquired by Lord Segal and loaned to House of Lords
Remaining set of seven were offered for sale, Christie’s, London, 18 May 1986, lots 221-227.
No. Six, in the series, depicting Anne Page and Fenton, sold at auction, Sotheby’s, London, 31 May 1991, lot 135.
The now offered lot, Anne Page and Slender (No. 7), was unrecorded after belonging to Sassoon, and is the only piece from the series of the Merry Wives, not illustrated in, Gordon Cullingham, The Royal Windsor Tapestry Manufactory, 1876-1890, An illustrated hand list, Royal Borough of Windsor, 1979, pp. 15-27, nos.1, 4-11. It is described and recorded that an engraving in Chef d’Oeuvre d’Art à l’Exposition Universelle 1878, shows the general composition of the subject, with Anne on the right with her dog behind her, with Slender to the left, set in a street scene, and notes a border arrangement at top and bottom. This may not be entirely reliable with regard to the note on the border, as other engraving reveal tapestries in the series known to have four-sided borders, for example, Anne Page and Fenton, without the side borders showing, and this was partly due to the borders being sewed on, and versatile with regard to hanging in spaces of different sizes. The border could as a result of the compartmentalised design work as a continuous design.
Under the directorship of Henri.C.J.Henry, who had previously been the art decorator at Gillows, and with Michel Brignolas, the first tapissier manager and dyer (responsible for the extensive range of shades of colours used in manufacture), the Old Windsor Tapestry Manufactory was opened in 1876 at Manor Lodge, Old Windsor, with weavers brought from Aubusson. Thomas Wallace Hay designed the Merry Wives of Windsor series and was one of the Manufactories own artists. Initially the President was Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, fourth son of Queen Victoria. On his death in 1884 he was succeeded by his brother the Prince of Wales, but as the manufactory came to face increasing financial problems, the royal support became less positive since the Prince could not be associated with a potentially bankrupt enterprise. By September 1888 most of the weavers had left and on Christmas Eve 1890 the Old Windsor Manufactory finally closed.
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