61
61
Flanders, Brussels
LION ATTACKING A DRAGON, 'PUGNAE FERARUM' TAPESTRY 
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61
Flanders, Brussels
LION ATTACKING A DRAGON, 'PUGNAE FERARUM' TAPESTRY 
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Howard Hodgkin, Portrait of the Artist

|
London

Flanders, Brussels
LION ATTACKING A DRAGON, 'PUGNAE FERARUM' TAPESTRY 
woven with a lion fighting an exotic winged dragon, with onlooking animals including a lioness and cowering monkeys in the corner, within a woodland setting opening up into a light glade in the background with camels and other animals; lacking borders, some sections missing,
possibly workshop of Jan van Tieghem, after Pieter Coecke van Aelst
wool, woven
approximately 259 by 281cm., 8ft 6in by 9ft 2in.
mid 16th century 
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Provenance

Cuvreau Enchères, France, 13 March 2011, lot 281

Catalogue Note

Landscapes brought to life by wild and exotic animals fighting (Pugnae Ferarum) is a dramatic subject for tapestries. The subjects and iconography grew from the interest in the 16th century in the newly discovered lands, which was seen in illustrated books, many of which presented animals very naturalistically (for example Konrad Gesner, Historia animalium, Zurich, 1551-1558). It revived interest in ancient texts on animals and their characteristics, and the literature of late antiquity and the middle ages represented the attributes of the animals as religious or moral allegories. The animals depicted in the tapestries are European (lynx and stags), some from other continents (elephants, lions, leopards, ostriches, rhinoceroses and reptiles) and others are fantastical (unicorns and dragons). Each had a different symbolism, following through from the medieval bestiaries. The tapestries combine the contemporary scientific interest with the moralising symbolism of the Middle Ages (Physiologus, anonymous Greek text, AD200-250). The dragon and the panther/and lion are not only representing exotic animals trying to dominate, but the fight between Christ and the devil (according to Physiologus), and the struggle between good and evil. The tapestries portray some animals cowering away from others, all indicative of the message that is imbued in the composition, which is not immediately apparent.

The earliest extant sets of ‘Landscapes with animals, were Flemish series, woven in Brussels circa 1550-1560; one being the ‘Unicorn’ set of nine in the Palazzo Borromeo, Isola Bella (Stresa) and the iconic set of ‘Landscapes with animals’ in Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow, which now consists of forty-four pieces, but there were originally more. This enormous set was acquired by Sigismund II Augustus, King of Poland and Lithuania, for Wawel Castle in 1572. The series was designed by an artist in the circle of Pieter Coecke Van Aelst, circa 1550, with a border design (of strapwork and putti, and fantastical animals, and narrow side and lower borders with double ribbon-scroll and flowering sprig) by an unknown Netherlandish artist from the circle of Cornelis Floris and Cornelis Bos, woven in Brussels, circa 1550-1560, with wool, silk, silver-and gilt-metal wrapped threads, and they have an unidentified weaver’s mark (possibly workshop of Jan van Tieghem). The tapestries varied in format and size, and were for different locations. One of the panels from Wawel Castle depicts a ‘Dragon fighting with a panther’, (363 by 337cm), and the dragon is very similar to the example depicted in the present panel, only his head is attacking a 'leopard' in the present example and from above, rather than from underneath. Similarly there are other animals looking on, and some cowering away, with others in the distant background. The difference in dimensions between this cited panel and the offered panel indicates that it is only the border missing from the fragment, and not much of the tapestry composition. 

There is a recorded set of eleven pieces of ‘Landscapes with Animals, possibly after Pieter Coecke van Aelst the Younger or Jean Tons II, circa 1550-1560, woven in the workshop of Catherine van den Eynde (Geubels widow; the tapestries bear her weaver’s mark), working with Jan Raes II, Brussels, 1611-1614, which was sent to Cardinal Alessandro Peretti Montalto in Rome, and hung in the Church of San Lorenzo for the Feast day. The set was in time divided, and a panel depicting a ‘Leopard over a pond’, from Palazzo Orsini, Rome (Property of the Sovereign Order of Malta) was exhibited in New York in 2008, see Campbell, Thomas, Tapestry in the Baroque, Threads of Splendour, Metropolitan Museum of Art Exhibition, New York, October 17, 2007-January 6, 2008; Yale University Press, Cat.9, pp.87-94. This series has an elaborate border in red and gold with foliate scrolls with pomegranates and artichokes, and roundels with figure heads or animal heads. Similar in quality and attention to detail to the tapestry fragment offered, this cited panel has a composition with another animal looking on, and in this instance from behind a date palm within the exuberant forest landscape. 

These very distinctive cited series with dramatic compositions, and the present fragment, were executed with great skill of interpretation of the cartoons and to a very high technical standard of weaving.

The series inspired other tapestry series with the distinctive theme, to be woven in Brussels and Oudenaarde, and a later interpretation was woven in Enghien, by Hendrick van der Cammen, second quarter 17th century, and they depicted animals on a smaller scale fighting in extensive landscape setting, including a wild cat attacking a donkey, a fox killing a cockerel, and a lion attacking a sheep and a deer, within dramatic architectural columned and architrave designed borders. They survive in the Château-Musée, Gaasbeek, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Philadelphia Museum of Art, respectively, and they bear the town and weaver’s marks, see Delmarcel, Guy, Tapisseries anciennes d'Enghien, Mons, 1980, cats. 24-26, pp.56-61. The naturalistic portrayal and technically proficient fine weaving of the animals and details shows similarities to the earlier Brussels woven series, of which the present fragment is an example, testifying to the skill of the Flemish weavers. For a tapestry depicting a lion and leopard, chasing a dragon, and with monkeys in the trees, all within a golden and blue scrolling border (315 by 372cm), see Sotheby’s, Monaco, 19 June 1992, lot 837. The scale of the animals is larger and more dominant within the landscape, possibly an Oudenaarde weaving, second half 16th century. For another tapestry sold at auction see Bernard Blondeel & Armand Deroyan Tapestries & Carpets, Christie's, London, 2 April 2003, lot 15, A Brussels Game Park Tapestry, second half 16th century, in the manner of Willem Tons or Pieter Coecke van Aelst, within an elaborate allegorical figured border.

Related Literature: 

Thomas Campbell, Tapestry in the Baroque, Threads of Splendour, Metropolitan Museum of Art Exhibition, New York, October 17, 2007-January 6, 2008; and at the Palacio Real, Madrid, March 6-June 1, 2007, Yale University Press, 2002, New Centers of Production and the Recovery of the Netherlandish Tapestry Industry, 1600-1620, Cat.9, pp.87-94, ‘Leopard over a pond’, Cardinal Alessandro Peretti Montalto series; 

Thomas Campbell, Tapestry in the Renaissance, Art and Magnificence, Metropolitan Museum of Art Exhibition, March-June 2002, Yale University Press, 2002, Netherlandish Designers, 1530-1560,  pp.378-457. Cat.53, ‘Dragon Fighting with a panther’, Sigismund II Augustus series; 

Delmarcel, Guy, Tapisseries anciennes d'Enghien, Mons, 1980, Cats. 24-26, pp.56-61, three tapestries of ‘Paysages à d’animaux’; 

Duverger, E, 'Tapijtwerk uit het Atelier van Frans Geubels', De Bloetijd van de vlaamse Tapijtkunst, Brussels, 1969, pp. 91-204; 

Ferrero Viale, M., 'Quelques nouvelles données sur les tapisseries de l'Isola Bella', L'Art brabançon au milieu du XVIe siècle et les tapisseries du château de Wawel à Cracovie, Brussels, 1974; Piwocka, Magdalena, The Tapestries of Sigismund Augustus, Wawel Royal Castle, State Art Collections, Krakow, 2007, Verdures, pp.38-55; 

Röthlisberger, M., 'La Tenture de la Licorne dans la Collection Borromée', Oud Holland, vol. 82, part 3, 1967, pp. 107 – 108; 

Six, Edwige, Les Routes de la Tapisserie en Val de Loire, Paris, 1996, pp.14-18, Set of eight tapestries of ‘combats of wild animals’, Brussels, circa 1550-1570, within exuberant frame pattern borders with corner and central strapwork framed cartouches enclosing landscapes with animals and the corners with allegorical figures, including a panel of a dragon fighting an elephant; 

Szablowski, J, ed., The Flemish Tapestries at Wawel Castle in Cracow, Antwerp, 1972, pp. 191- 286

 

Howard Hodgkin, Portrait of the Artist

|
London