124
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PROPERTY OF A SPANISH DUCAL FAMILY

'Diana and the nymph Callisto', A Flemish metamorphoses mythological tapestry, Bruges workshop, from The Story of Diana circa 1630
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124

PROPERTY OF A SPANISH DUCAL FAMILY

'Diana and the nymph Callisto', A Flemish metamorphoses mythological tapestry, Bruges workshop, from The Story of Diana circa 1630
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Details & Cataloguing

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'Diana and the nymph Callisto', A Flemish metamorphoses mythological tapestry, Bruges workshop, from The Story of Diana circa 1630
woven in wool and silk, depicting the narrative story of Diana and Callisto, with the foreground scene showing Diana outside her rocky grotto, with her attendants, and confronting her nymph Callisto before expelling her from her company, with the prior scenes in the story of the seduction of Jupiter and the other nymphs discovering the outcome of the assignation, in the background of the landscape setting (Met. 2: 422-453; Fasti 2:155-192), within a four-sided narrative and ‘Elements’ border, with the 'broche' Bruges town mark woven in the far right selvedge
approximately 346cm. high, 380cm. wide; 11ft. 4in., 12ft. 5in.
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Catalogue Note

The tapestries from the Bruges workshops in the 17th century, continued in the earlier Flemish tradition of producing technically and compositionally very competent tapestries. From the surviving pieces it is evident that the clientele were varied and included the churches and monastaries. Although very little pertaining to the details of specific workshops is known, the successful and prolific production of the Bruges workshops, culminated in the very distinctive and striking Baroque tapestries, of the 17th century.  

The story of Diana was an influential classical allegorical subject for tapestry series, which included those woven in 17th century Bruges. Diana was one of the twelve gods and goddesses of Olympus. She had various personifications over time: as earth goddess pre Greek origins, then as the huntress by the Greeks, and later as the moon goddess, and with the Romans venerated her as a triple deity of Diana (earth), Luna (sky), and Hecate (the underworld). Together with her stag drawn chariot, she had different attributes associated with her various incarnations. Diana’s nymphs were expected to be as chaste as she was. One of Diana’s nymphs, Callisto, is seduced by the supreme ruler of the gods and mortals, Jupiter (disguised as Diana in order to gain her presence), and when Diana realises that Callisto is pregnant, she is confronted by Diana in her grotto, and then punished by the goddess Juno (protectress of women, but as wife of Jupiter, always plotting revenge on those involved in his romantic assignations), who turns Callisto into a bear, and is almost killed before being saved by Jupiter and taken up to the heavens.

The narrative vignettes of the Greek/Roman story, seen in the background of the main tapestry, are further reinforced within the distinctive ‘Elements’ border (the four elements distinguished by the attributes of the gods, which represents earth in the vertical borders, air in the top border, and water in the lower border, although there is no fire – except the illusion to it, through the attribute of the thunderbolt held by Jupiter). 

The border depicts the well-known classical gods, goddesses and personages, together with their attributes, including Juno (upper left corner: with peacock), Jupiter (upper right corner: with thunder bolt and eagle), Cupid on an eagle (Jupiter), (upper border, centre) and Neptune (lower border, centre: including the carriage, trident and sea centaurs). Being so clearly recognizable they immediately contextualise the main episode of the tapestry. In the left vertical border Jupiter seduces Callisto disguised as Diana (although this representation of Diana is slightly different). Then in the right vertical border, Juno discovering what Jupiter has done and turning Callisto into a bear is depicted, and Callisto is then almost killed by her and Jupiter’s son, Arcas (who eventually shares the same fate of his mother, of being transformed into a constellation of stars by Jupiter: Ursa Major and Ursa Minor). 

For a comparable group of three tapestries form the series of The Story of Diana, Bruges, circa 1620, within the same inner and outer narrow borders, and the variations on the theme of the narrative ‘elements’ border, in the Spanish Royal Collection, Madrid, see Paulina Junquera de Vega, Carmen Diaz Gallegos, Catàlogo de Tapices del Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 1986, Vol. II, Siglio XVII, Pano I, Serie 44, pp.15-18. The series includes a comparable weaving of a tapestry of the same composition and border type, taken from the same cartoon, and with minor differences (approximately 404 by 390cm: Inv. 10005731, Cat. TA-44/2: Restored in Madrid in 1987 with the contribution of Louis de la Poortere S.A.). For another comparable weaving of this composition, albeit within a different border type (Galerie Petit Sale, Paris, 19-21 Feb 1906, Collection Van der Hoeven, n. 292), see Delmarcel, Guy, Duverger, Erik., Bruges et la Tapisserie, Bruges-Mouscron, 1987, p. 321, together with other Bruges manufactured tapestries, of Diana tapestries, pp. 321-331.

The Imperial edict of 1544 confirmed that each tapestry production centre had to introduce its own town mark, and it was implemented in Bruges in 1547, when it was decided by the Bruges magistrates that the town mark should be a Gothic letter B, and then at a later point (probably the end of the sixteenth century) the motif of a 'broche' (the shuttle used on the high warp looms), was added, and by the second half of the 17th century the shuttle was used on it's own, as is visible on the present tapestry.  

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