View full screen - View 1 of Lot 6. An Old Testament Tapestry, Southern Netherlands, probably Tournai, circa 1515, from the Story of Judith and Holofernes.
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An Old Testament Tapestry, Southern Netherlands, probably Tournai, circa 1515, from the Story of Judith and Holofernes

Property from a Private Collection

An Old Testament Tapestry, Southern Netherlands, probably Tournai, circa 1515, from the Story of Judith and Holofernes

An Old Testament Tapestry, Southern Netherlands, probably Tournai, circa 1515, from the Story of Judith and Holofernes

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Property from a Private Collection

An Old Testament Tapestry, Southern Netherlands, probably Tournai, circa 1515, from the Story of Judith and Holofernes


woven with figures in an interior setting, with tent and banquet scenes in the background, and tent in the landscape beyond, the scene flanked by columns on each side, incorporating the text names of three characters, and the lower section for the textual banderole along the top edge; fragment, lacking borders, with later selvedges

approximately 348cm high, 221cm wide; 11ft 4in, 7ft 2in.

Of good professionally restored condition. With good colour overall. With linen lining on reverse. Lacking border. Later selvedges.


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acquired from Galerie Chevalier, Paris

The subject of the Story of Judith and Holofernes was associated with the triumph of good over evil. Tournai had become one of the leading centres of high quality tapestries during the second half of the 16th century. Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey and the continental courts of Philip the Good, Margaret of Austria, and Francis I were amongst the royals and courtiers of Europe that obtained sets of tapestries from Tournai at this time, often of allegorical significance and therefore of classical and usually biblical subjects.


For a directly comparable weaving, using different colours for clothing, and of double the width, revealing two scenes from the Story of Judith and Holofernes divided by a central marble column and plinth, with the red ground narrative banderole at the top of the scenes and all within a narrow border, with clasped foliate motifs (428cm by 614cm), Musees Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels. 


The attribution of specific Tournai weavings is assisted by those that have been identified through archival records. For example Cardinal Wolsey, Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII, in 1515, commissioned tapestries from Tournai through Jehan Scellier, the Provost of Tournai (who may have been related to a Flemish merchant-tapissier family of that name), and arranged through Richard Gresham, a wealthy London merchant whose commercial activities were centred through the Netherlands. Amongst one of the first consignments of tapestries ordered was a set from The Story of Judith and Holofernes, which arrived in England in 1521. None of these tapestries survive in the Royal Collection, but a tapestry panel of Judith and Holofernes with a border attached with the Wolsey's arms, 1520-1521 (325cm by 590cm) has survived in the possession of the Treasury at Sens cathedral. The tapestry shows three scenes, with the demarcation of each marked by the use of the columns, and two scenes show the tent canopy, with the text Holofernes. The border type along the lower border and two sides is different to that of the above cited weaving in the Brussels, museum.  It is of note that it is recorded that a set of tapestries of the same subject, The Story of Judith, was delivered to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, in 1517. For a comparable fragment of a court scene, Tournai, circa 1520 (289cm by 105cm), with similar approach to design, and therefore comparable with the wider composition of the Brussels weaving cited, see Acc. No. 46.147, Burrell Collection, Glasgow.

 

For other series popular at this time, and considered to be of Tournai manufacture, see Four episodes from The Story of Hercules, Southern Netherlands, 1515-1535 in the Metropolitan Museum (Acc.No. 35.79.1-4), which has a comparable border type with the clasped foliate motifs, along with tapestries of The Ship of Virtues, from the series The World, Tournai, 1528-1540, in the Minneapolis Museum (Acc.No. 42.15).


Comparable literature:

Adelson, Candace, European Tapestry in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, New York, 1994, pp.92-103, The Ship of Virtues, from the series The World, Tournai, 1528-1540.

Campbell, Thomas, ‘Cardinal Wolsey’s Tapestry Collection’, Antiquaries Journal 76 (1), pp.91-137, p.94, fig. 13.

Campbell, Thomas, Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty, Tapestries of the Tudor Court, Yale University Press, 2007, Chp. 6, Purchases and use of tapestry, 1509-1509, pp.112, fig. 6.9., and p.114, fig.7.7.

Cavallo, Adolfo, Medieval Tapestries in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1993, No.48, pp.561-471, Four episodes from The Story of Hercules, Southern Netherlands, 1515-1535.

Cleland, Elizabeth and Karafel, Lorraine, Glasgow Museums Tapestries from the Burrell Collection, London and New York, 2017, Catalogue of Tapestries: Part II, Southern Netherlands and French, mythology, classical history and post classical legend, pp.393-427, No.138. Court Scene fragment, pp.610-611, comparable fig.1. Judith and Holofernes.

Crick-Kuntziger, Marthe, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis te Brussel: Catalogus van de wandtapitjen (XIVe tot XVIIIe eeuw), Brussels, Royal Museums for Art and History, Brussels, 1956, No.14.