By the last quarter of the 15th
century, the tapestry industry had existed for more than a century in the Southern Netherlands and Northern France.The importance of the tapestry industry in Brussels and the determining factors of high standards of guilds and workforce, the reliable access to resources, and the established trade networks ensured the continuing vitality of production. It resulted in a range of production from the excellence of the finest series commissioned to others which were speculative productions and sold at the renowned annual fairs such as Bruges, Antwerp, and Bergen op Zoom. From here tapestries reached a sophisticated clientele and burgeoning group, for whom tapestries were a well established display of wealth and prestige. This extended patronage may well have contributed to the compositions of the tapestries which were not specific commissions. These weavings have more ambiguous subject matter, with compositions open to interpretation, sometimes intimating at biblical, historical, classical, allegorical and mythological subjects. Compositions increasingly began to be woven without the narrative banderoles across the top, and without names within the compositions. The figures were often in contemporary luxurious status clothing with some hinting at the source of the subject, and the compositions were inspired by the earlier narrative tapestries, with individual groups and architectural settings across the plane of the wide tapestry, which were extracted into compositions of smaller weavings, of single groups with more solitary architectural niches, marble pillar surrounds and textile canopies. The reusing of compositional groups and figural positionings was not uncommon, and therefore made the subject identification of the reinterpreted groupings less certain, especially with hindsight.
For detailed discussion see Thomas Campbell, Tapestry in the Renaissance, Art and Magnificence, Metropolitan Museum of Art Exhibition, March-June 2002, Yale University Press, 2002, Netherlandish Production and the rise of Brussels, 1480-1515, pp. 131-145, Cat. nos. 12-17.
Adolph Cavallo, Medieval Tapestries in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993, pp.421-445, for examples of Biblical and allegorical narrative tapestries, such as The Story of the Redemption of Man.
Anna Bennett, Five Centuries of Tapestry, The Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, 1992, No. 9, pp.50-51, ‘Scene at a Royal court’, Brussels, circa 1500, (221 by 257cm) with similarities in style and colouring to the offered tapestry.