Lot 48
  • 48

A rare Medieval allegorical wool and metal-thread tapestry, Swiss /North Rhine circa 1480 - 1500

40,000 - 60,000 GBP
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  • wool and metal-thread tapestry
  • whole panel approximately 262cm. high, 202cm. wide; 8ft. 7in., 6ft. 7in. (top panel with Job, Catho and Seneca: 132cm. high; 4ft. 4in. and the lower panel with Thomas, Bernhardus and Augustinus 127cm. high; 4ft. 2in.
comprised of two joined horizontal panels with standing figures in relief, depicting Church Fathers, Saints and Philosophers, the top panel depicting (from left to right): `Her Job', 'Catho' and 'Seneca'; and the lower panel depicting (from left to right): 'Sanct(us) Thomas', 'Sanctus Bernhardus' and 'Sanct Augustinus' the panels incorporating inscriptions in German, woven in red and black, with each figure identified by their name in the narrative scroll above and by further inscriptions within a cartouche shaped banderole with text extoling the virtures of the figure enclosed, each figure is standing on a small architectural carved plinth support, all set against a background of repeat pattern of eagle and foliate motifs against dark indigo ground, with some metal-thread highlights. The German banderoles incorporate the following inscriptions, the top panel depicting (from left to right): Her Job (wins gern alleyne und halt din gede(n)ke reyne und hat vor / augen die zehen gebot und vor allen dingen so habe liep got); Catho (dencke wass du bist und auch salt werden du sist jung oder alt / uff erden sesstest du dar in dinen sin du dedest der su(n)den vil desto ein); Seneca (Daz sunde nit sunde in were noch dan so were sie mir un / mere umb yre grosse unfledekeit diss wiset mich myn bescheide(n)heit); and the lower panel depicting (from left to right); Sanct(us) Thomas (Wir sin hie fremde geste wir zy(m)mern hie grosse feste mich hat / wonder dass wir nit in muren da wir eweclich mugen duren); Sanctus Bernhardus (Heilig …als man non … fyren was die dogeur uber / alle doget get der eyme bosen willen weder wet), and Sanct Augustinus (Wie gedarstu da yane aeleben da du noch ynne woldest / sterben in allen dinen werken salt du din ende merken)


Collection of Baron Arthur de Schickler, Château Martinvast, France, 19th century


The tapestry is comprised of two woven fragment panels of horizontal format, which have been attached together across the lower and upper edge respectively to form a vertical panel, with the horizontal join across the centre. Both the upper and lower sections are fragments. There is very little turned under on the sides. There are thin added slithers in the top right corner of the upper panel, and thin slither to the lower half on far left of the upper section. At points along the top edge of the upper panel, there are motifs in red which could be letters, and the general design continues to edge and is not complete, as it does in the lower section. Showing that they are fragments and once separate panels Metal-thread highlights (tarnished) are present in some minor areas: for example to some of floral details within the figural cartouche of St. Thomas, and to his central cloak clasp and to the outline of the lily, then in the outline of the name banderole of Herr Job (top left), and the neck ribbons fluttering underneath the banderole of Catho, and to details of binding of the manuscript. There are old hand repairs in areas. For example to the far right corner there is repair in a later orange coloured thread. Moving down the right side, there is an oval shaped cobbled repair to the griffin in centre of the lower right figural banderole, visible in the photograph as a blue section, and the area directly down to the left of the banderole with script St. Augustus - (the right hand figure of lower section), has some cuts and joins and repair to yellow flower head in the section above the bird. The black robe of St Augustus has hand repair in lower section. There is repaired to split near bird on lower edge between the banderoles of two lower Saints. The plinth support of St. Bernhardus has obvious repairs along the edges of the triangle, and there are two patches to the lower edge, of banderole of St. Bernhardus and bird to the left and banderole of St. Thomas. There is a small vertical split (approx. 3cm) in the lower left corner of the lower panel within the ivory banderole which needs stabilising. There are small repairs in areas along the horizontal join across the centre. Minor areas of oxidisation to the browns, commensurate with age and some weaknesses in the light cream/ivory colours (see dark brown of text banderoles in the upper section) and some small colour separation and design holes in minor areas in both sections. Most repairs are predominantly old and commensurate with age. The panel has a later linen backing with thin rope looped across the top. It is recommended that it should be re-lined and Velcro should be added across the top for hanging purposes in the future. The composition is balanced due to the banderoles around the figures being present at the sides. The colours are bright and colourful balanced with delicate yellows, creams, pale green and pale apricot and the overall appearance is balanced. It is a very evocative early tapestry. There are wonderful examples of early weaving `hachure' technique and a sophisticated drawing incorporating charming details overall, from the background through to the faces, script on manuscripts and design of textiles. It is in overall good and stable condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

For two very similar and comparable panels which depict five of the figures present on the offered tapestry, see `Zwei Teppiche mit Philosophen, Kirchenvätern und Weisen des alten Testaments’, dated circa 1485-1490, from the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin (Inv. Nr. 1879, 33a), discussed and illustrated, Kurth, Betty, Die deutschen Bildteppiche des Mittelalters  (The German tapestries of the Middle Ages), Vols 1-3, Vienna, 1926, Vol. 1, pg.190, & pg. 273., Vol.3, Plate 316a & b. Each panel has four complete figures and half of a figure, all on plinth supports, with narrative scrolls and banderoles with inscriptions. One of the panels depicts from left to right: (G)regorius (partially), Frigedang, David, Helias and Sanct Thomas (approximately 147-150cm. high, 334cm. wide; 4ft. 11in., 10ft. 11in.) and the other panel depicts (from left to right): Ct. Augustinus (partially), Her Job, Catho, Seneca, Salomon (approximately 148cm. high, 338cm. wide; 4ft. 10in., 11ft. 1in.).

The above cited museum panels and the present tapestry, are all woven with the very distinctive design element of the relief of figures with the surrounding banderoles with Gothic script inscriptions, found in the Upper Rhineland weavings, where Basel and Strasbourg were the more important production centres. A number of the tapestries incorporating the coats-of-arms of Basle families. Documents mention wall-hangings, backcloths behind benches, table and cushion covers, coverlets and in the churches antependia (altar frontals).  The present panels (one separate horizontal strips) were probably used as the background for mystery plays, liturgical and other ceremonies. 


Berner-Laschinski, Waltraud, Ein Bildteppich des 16. Jahrhunderts (A Tapestry of the 16th century), Restoration, Preservation: Furniture, goldsmiths, textile, porcelain. Using examples from the Kunstgewerbemuseums Staatliche Museen in Berlin, documented in 1994 & 1995. Accompanied the museum exhibition ‘Restoration, Preservation’, 10th May to 28th July, Ed. Barbara Mundt, Julius Lessing Society, Berlin 1996, pp. 36-39.
Göbel, Heinrich, Die Wandteppiche, Part III., Germanic and Slavic Countries, Vol.1: Germany including Switzerland and Alsace (Middle Ages), Southern Germany (16th-18th century), Berlin 1933, pg.175, plate 145a (detail from one of panels from the Berlin (Schlossmuseum) panel, showing David (partially), Helias and Thomas), circa 1490.
Gysin, Frédéric, Swiss Medieval Tapestries, London, 1940. 
Hartkamp-Jonxis, Ebeltje and Smith, Hillie, European Tapestries in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2004, pp.319-321, for an example of a similarly dated panel, depicting David and Bathsheba panel, Alsace or Strasbourg, circa 1490-1500, incorporating metal-thread highlights.
Husband, Timothy, The Wild Man: Medieval Myth and Symbolism, exhibition catalogue, Cloister, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 1980 – January 1981.
Kurth, Betty, Die deutschen Bildteppiche des Mittelalters  (The German tapestries of the Middle Ages), Vols 1-3, Vienna , 1926, Vol. 1, pg.190, & pg. 273., Vol.3, Plate 316a & b.
Lambacher , Lothar, Weise Männer (Wise Men) and medieval epigrams, The so-called Kirchenväterteppich (Church Fathers Carpet), Berlin 2001 (Information Sheet No. 1421 Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz Kunstgewerbemuseum).
Lanz, Hans, Die alten Bildteppiche im Historischen Museum Basel (The ancient tapestries in the Basel Historical Museum), Basel, 1985, see two panels which follow the same same figural relief and banderole format, with repeat pattern backgrounds, a panel of ‘Noblemen and Women hawking’, Basel, circa 1490 (approx. 116-119.5cm. high, 345cm. wide), pp.44-45, colour plate pp.46-47, and a fragmentary panel depicting five of the ‘Nine Heroes’, with banderoles and repeat pattern background, Basel, circa 1490 (approx. 114cm. high, 183cm. wide), pg.52, colour plate, pg.53.
Duke Luitpold of Bavaria, Die fränkische Bildwirkerei (The Franconian tapestry) Munich, 1925, text and illustrated volume, Figs 56b, 56c, text volume, pg. 85f.
Rapp Buri, Anna, and Stucky-Schürer, Monica, Zahm und Wild, Basler und Strassburger Bildteppiche des 15. Jahrhunderts (Tame and Wild: Basel and Strasbourg tapestries of the 15th century), Mainz, 1990.
Schuchardt, Wolfgang, Weibliche Handwerkskunst in deutschen Mittelalter, Berlin, 1941.
Wilcken, Leonie, The `Wise Men’ Tapestry in Berlin. Bulletin de Liaison du Centre Internacional d'Etudes of Textiles Anciens, Lyon 59/60 (1984), pp. 61-66 (Figs 1 & 2, pg. 64).
Wilhelmy, Winfried, Drache, Greif und Liebesleut: Mainzer Bildteppiche aus spätgotischer Zeit (Dragons, Griffins and Lovers: Tapestries from the late Gothic period), Bischöflichen dom- und Diözesanmuseums, Mainz, Verlag Philipp von Zabern, Mainz, 2000, for discussion of tapestries of a similar date, format, inspiration and quality of weave and design, including the panel of Jungfrauen (Young ladies), circa 1450-1475, with banderoles and gold and silver metal-thread highlights, No.3, pp.52-56, colour plates 3.a & 3b.