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This magnificent millefleurs armorial tapestry belongs to a small group of related tapestries known to survive and now ascribed to the Bruges workshops. A very fine example with a nearly identical design incorporating floral-wreath medallions flanked by palm trees suspending military trophies, emblazoned with the arms of Salzburg and Cardinal Matthaus Lang von Wellenbeurg, all on a rich millefleurs ground is in the Salzburger Museum Carolino Augusteum (Delmarcel and Duverger, op. cit, cat. no. 4, pp. 192-196). Von Wellenburg served in the court of Frederik II and Maximillian I before becoming cardinal in 1513 and later archbishop of Salzburg in 1519. A fragment with the same arms is in the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge.
The millefleurs genre evolved in around 1450-60 and one of the earliest documented pieces is the armorial tapestry of Philip the Good of Burgundy, probably woven for the duke in Brussels circa 1475. Millefleurs grounds served as a backdrop for sacred, profane, historical and heraldic representations and were de regueur well into the 16th century. The quality of these tapestries varied widely, depending on the workshop in which they were woven. However, the present example represents a very fine, dense quality of weaving that characterizes the best tapestries of the period.
Delmarcel and Duverger (op. cit., pp. 195-196, fig. 4/4) illustrate this tapestry in their seminal publication on the Bruges tapestry manufactory noting that it was previously catalogued at 'Tournai'. While the designer, cartoonist and weavers of these colorful hangings are often unknown, fragments of a very similar millefleurs tapestry from the Bruges workshop with armorial devices dated circa 1530-40 is documented as having been made for the council hall in Bruges. Woven by Antoon Segon, after designs by Lancelot Blondeel and Willem de Hollander or Joost van der Beke (Delmarcel and Duverger 1987, op. cit., pp. 84, 180-203), this piece has allowed scholars to determine a more specific dating of these sumptuous weavings.
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