An exceptional first quarter 16th Century mythological and allegorical Tapestry  South Netherlandish, probably woven between 1510-1520

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Lot 25TP
An exceptional first quarter 16th Century mythological and allegorical Tapestry
South Netherlandish, probably woven between 1510-1520

Sold for £ 275,250 (US$ 346,096) inc. premium
An exceptional first quarter 16th Century mythological and allegorical Tapestry
South Netherlandish, probably woven between 1510-1520
Woven in rich wools and silks, the figures in typical Medieval dress, some labelled with a curious mix of Roman and Ancient Greek letters, the recurring figure of Aeneas wearing a blue draped cloak and red hat, the Sybil Diephobe (also recurring) wearing a beautiful medieval dress and girdle - an elaborate golden wimple on her head, the whole surrounded by a thin delicate flower-filled border, the main field depicting an intricate and complex rendition of ancient mythological episodes from the story of Aeneas, founder of Rome, first landing at Cumae in the top left corner of the main field and meeting the Sybil of Cumae, Diephobe, daughter of Glaucus, who shows him the temple of Apollo while his attendants search for water and firewood in the surrounding countryside. In the central field Diephobe shows Aeneas the doors of the temple which were crafted by the ancient craftsman Daedalus. The doors themselves show the story of Daedalus' winged escape from Crete on the right hand side and the conception of the infamous minotaur on the left hand side, the sculpture of Apollo, resplendent in golden armour, bears the wings which Daedalus used in his escape from Crete and which he then dedicated in thanks to Apollo when he arrived safely in Cumae. Aeneas is then shown all of the greatness of Rome to come and watches as, in the top right of the main field, a grief-stricken Augustus watches as his hoped-for successor Marcellus Marcus Claudius is buried, his wife Octavia standing by his side. Augustus was known to have wept when Virgil recited Book VI of the Aeneid to him, thus the viewer and Aeneas are one and the same - watching the great Emperor of Rome weep as an old man. Restorations,
340cm high x 490cm wide


  • Provenance:
    Collection of Baron Gustave de Rothschild (1829-1911).
    Thence by descent, until sold
    Etude Couturier Nicolay, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 4 December 1987, lot 187.
    'Provenant des Anciennes Collections du Baron Gustave Rothschild de Chateau Beychevelle et appurtenant a divers amateurs,'

    Patrons of Trojan Tapestry sets from the 15th and 16th century include: Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, Henry VII and VIII of England, King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, Charles VIII of France, Ferdinand I of Naples and Ludovico il Moro Duke of Milan. So while we do not know exactly who commissioned this tapestry (presumably part of a set) there is sufficient stylistic and iconographic evidence to suggest it was a noble or even Royal patron.

    Pasquier Grenier in Tournai: The 11 piece tapestry set depicting the story of Troy was given to Charles Bold by the City of Bruges when he married Margaret of York. The Trojan War Tapestries were supplied by Pasquier Grenier of Tournai to Charles the Bold of Burgandy in 1472 and another set to Henry VII of England in 1488. It is possible that a re-surge in enthusiasm for Troy as a subject became popular after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

    The designs for these Trojan War tapestries were based more on literary references like Benoit de Sainte Maure's 'Roman de Troie (c.1180) rather than the better known Homer's Iliad or Virgil's Aeneid. Some Northern European Courts who had a set of tapestries showing the story of Troy claimed these had come directly from Aeneas. Some European Royal families even claimed Aeneas as a direct ancestor. This is understandable since Aeneas arguably exemplified not just a link between Troy and Rome but the leap from ancient paganism to imperial civilisation.

    Trojan War Series (La Guerra de Troya): This series comprised eleven tapestries -today there are four permanently at the Zamora Cathedral. These four were donated by Count Alba de Aliste and they arrived at the Cathedral in 1608. Count Alba was probably given these by the Count of Tendilla (their coat of arms are visible) This does not, however mean that they were the commissioners -their coat of arms were later added to the tapestry.

    Los Honores: Woven by Pieter van Aelst -they were completed in 1523. Pieter van Aelst however, had to mortgage the set to the Antwerp agents of the Fuggers -a family of merchant princes in Germany. Van Aelst in fact said to his creditors that they should offer the expensive tapestries for sale to Charles V -the person who they had been woven for in the first place. The Fuggers took up this suggestion and the central panel of the set was sent to Charles V as a sample. The Emperor only came to posses all of the tapestries in 1526 when he was in Seville. Sadly, no cartoons for this set survives but over the years a number of designers have been suggested -including Bernaert van Orley. The iconography of this set, much like the present lot present not just full of rich literary allusions but also the iconography of Royal ethics, namely Honour, Nobility and Fame. The tapestry of fame in terms of composition is not dissimilar to the composition of the present lot, with the central 'enshrined' figures surround by an active narrative to the top and bottom left and right (see illustration).

    Don Carlos tapestry sets: The eldest son of King Philip II of Spain, whose short life has fascinated historians for centuries, is less often remembered for being an avid art collector. His collection of tapestries is well documented and we know that in the mid 16th century he owned six figurative sets of tapestries including ten of the History of Aeneas, six of the History of Hercules, 12 of the Twelve Months, 11 of the History of the gods and nine of Creation and seen of the Battle of Pavia. We know that his father, Philip had bought a large amount of tapestries between 1549 and 1550 when he visited the Netherlands. The most well-known of these, still in the Royal Collection are the Moralides (again see illustration here for similarities with the intricate Brussels border and character labels previously mentioned). It is possible that other mythological pieces may have gone to Don Carlos. His series on the story of Aeneas was purchased at Medina del Campo -which was an important centre for the sale of Flemish tapestries.

    In England: Interestingly, we know that, like his father, Henry VIII was an enthusiastic art collector. Aeneas seems to have been a popular subject here too and 'Aeneas Relating his Adventures to Dido' woven in Brussels c.1530 formed part of his collection as well as 'Aeneas meeting his Mother Venus'. Five pieces of the Story of Aeneas remained at Whitehall until the late 17th century. The designer for this set is thought to be someone from the circle of Van Orley. Interestingly Mary Queen of Scots had 'one tapestrie of the sailing of Eneas contening aucht peces' at Holyrood House.

    Hapsburg Patronage:
    The patronage of the Hapsburgs and the influence of the Spanish Monarchy on artistic production in Northern Europe.
    After the Netherlands became part of the Spanish Kingdom, places like Oudenaarde and Brussels filled the Spanish court with pieces from their workshops.

    The Hapsburg/ Spanish monarchy were highly influential when it came to artistic production in the Low countries. The idea of the 'vida noble,' the noble life -was filled with jewels, carpets, relics and manuscripts etc. The two main artistic centres -Flanders and Italy were under Hapsburg control during this period.

    When it came to selecting subject matter, often the monarch would be represented by heroic figures -Mars or Hercules. One could say that these artists made the king an icon himself -using symbols of Greco-Roman tradition. It is perfectly reasonable then to suppose that Aeneas, father of Rome, would have been a suitable subject for a Royal tapestry commission.

    Source for Left hand Side and Centre- Virgil Aeneid VI lines 5 - 41
    Landing at Cumae and the Temple of Apollo

    Sic fatur lacrimans, classique immittit habenas
    et tandem Euboicis Cumarum adlabitur oris.
    obvertunt pelago proras; tum dente tenaci
    ancora fundabat navis et litora curvae
    praetexunt puppes. iuvenum manus emicat ardens 5
    litus in Hesperium; quaerit pars semina flammae
    abstrusa in venis silicis, pars densa ferarum
    tecta rapit silvas inventaque flumina monstrat.
    at pius Aeneas arces quibus altus Apollo
    praesidet horrendaeque procul secreta Sibyllae, 10
    antrum immane, petit, magnam cui mentem animumque
    Delius inspirat vates aperitque futura.
    iam subeunt Triviae lucos atque aurea tecta.
    Daedalus, ut fama est, fugiens Minoia regna
    praepetibus pennis ausus se credere caelo 15
    insuetum per iter gelidas enavit ad Arctos,
    Chalcidicaque levis tandem super astitit arce.
    redditus his primum terris tibi, Phoebe, sacravit
    remigium alarum posuitque immania templa.
    in foribus letum Androgeo; tum pendere poenas 20
    Cecropidae iussi (miserum!) septena quotannis
    corpora natorum; stat ductis sortibus urna.
    contra elata mari respondet Cnosia tellus:
    hic crudelis amor tauri suppostaque furto
    Pasiphae mixtumque genus prolesque biformis 25
    Minotaurus inest, Veneris monimenta nefandae,
    hic labor ille domus et inextricabilis error;
    magnum reginae sed enim miseratus amorem
    Daedalus ipse dolos tecti ambagesque resolvit,
    caeca regens filo vestigia. tu quoque magnam 30
    partem opere in tanto, sineret dolor, Icare, haberes.
    bis conatus erat casus effingere in auro,
    bis patriae cecidere manus. quin protinus omnia
    perlegerent oculis, ni iam praemissus Achates
    adforet atque una Phoebi Triviaeque sacerdos, 35
    Deiphobe Glauci, fatur quae talia regi:
    'non hoc ista sibi tempus spectacula poscit;
    nunc grege de intacto septem mactare iuvencos
    praestiterit, totidem lectas ex more bidentis.'
    talibus adfata Aenean (nec sacra morantur 40
    iussa viri) Teucros vocat alta in templa sacerdos.

    So he (Aeneas) speaks with tears and unties his fleet and at length slips on the Euboean shores of Cumae. They turn their prows towards the open sea; then with fixing tooth the anchor secures the ships and the curving keels fringe the beach. The band of young men spring forth eagerly on to the Italian shore. Some of them search for the seeds of flame which lie hidden in veins of flint. Some scour the woods and the tangled dens of wild beasts and show the rivers they have discovered.

    But dutiful Aeneas seeks out the citadel over which lofty Apollo presides and the distant cave of the fear inspiring Sibyl, a vast cavern. The Delian prophet (Apollo) inspires her great mind and spirit and reveals the future. Now they come to the groves of Trivia (Diana/Hecate) and her golden house.

    Daedalus, the story goes, when fleeing from the Minoan kingdom, having dared swift wings to trust himself to the sky, along an unknown route floated to the cold North. He halted over the Chalcidian citadel. Returning to earth first here, he dedicated the framework of his wings to you, Apollo, and founded a mighty temple.

    On the doors is wrought the death of Androgenos. Next The children of Cecrops (Athenians) are ordered to pay a penalty - poor them - every year of seven of their young ones. The urn is set and the lots are drawn.

    On the opposite side the land of Crete rising from the side forms the counterpart. Here is shown Pasiphae's secret savage passion for the bull and her hybrid biformed offspring - the Minotaur, the proof of unspeakable depravity.

    Here is that house, an inextricable maze. But Daedalus himself, though pity for the great love of the queen (Ariadne) solved the puzzle and windings of the house, guiding a way through the dark passages with a thread.

    And, you, Icarus would have a place in such a great work, had grief allowed it. Twice he tried to portray your fall in gold. Twice his hands could not do it.

    And so they would have gone on to examine all things had not Achates, who had been sent on ahead, now arrived and with him the priestess of Phoebus and Trivia,
    Deiphobe by name, the daughter of Glaucus who said "This is not the time for such sight seeing. now it is best to sacrifice seven bullocks from a herd which have never felt the yoke and the same number of ewes as is the custom"

    After she addressed Aeneas in this way (and his men do not delay the bidden sacrifice), the priestess summons the Trojans into the lofty temple.

    Source for Top Right lines 791 - 805
    Anchises Prophesies Augustus' Achievements

    hic vir, hic est, tibi quem promitti saepius audis,
    Augustus Caesar, divi genus, aurea condet
    saecula qui rursus Latio regnata per arva
    Saturno quondam, super et Garamantas et Indos
    proferet imperium; iacet extra sidera tellus, 795
    extra anni solisque vias, ubi caelifer Atlas
    axem umero torquet stellis ardentibus aptum.
    huius in adventum iam nunc et Caspia regna
    responsis horrent divum et Maeotia tellus,
    et septemgemini turbant trepida ostia Nili. 800
    nec vero Alcides tantum telluris obivit,
    fixerit aeripedem cervam licet, aut Erymanthi
    pacarit nemora et Lernam tremefecerit arcu;
    nec qui pampineis victor iuga flectit habenis
    Liber, agens celso Nysae de vertice tigris.

    This is the man, here he is, who you often hear promised to you , Augustus Caesar, of divine lineage, who will establish in Latium for a second time a golden age throughout the fields once ruled over by Saturn. He will extend his empire over the Garamantae (Libya) and the Indus.

    There lies a land beyond the constellations, beyond the pathways of the year and the sun, where Atlas, the sky bearer, turns upon his shoulder its axis fixed with burning stars. At his approach even now the Caspian realms and the land of Maeotia (Sea of Above) shudder at the answers of the godsend the mouths of the sevenfold Nile are in a turmoil of fear.

    Not even Alcides(Hercules) journeyed over so much of the earth although he pierce the hind with feet of brass and pacified the groves of Erymanthus and made Lerna tremble with his bow, nor he the conqueror, who guides his chariot with vine leaf reins, Liber (Dionysus) driving with his tigers down from the towering peak of Nysa.

    Source for Lower central Right lines 862 - 886
    The Lamentation for Marcellus

    quis, pater, ille, virum qui sic comitatur euntem?
    filius, anne aliquis magna de stirpe nepotum?
    qui strepitus circa comitum! quantum instar in ipso! 865
    sed nox atra caput tristi circumvolat umbra.'
    tum pater Anchises lacrimis ingressus obortis:
    'o gnate, ingentem luctum ne quaere tuorum;
    ostendent terris hunc tantum fata nec ultra
    esse sinent. nimium vobis Romana propago 870
    visa potens, superi, propria haec si dona fuissent.
    quantos ille virum magnam Mauortis ad urbem
    campus aget gemitus! vel quae, Tiberine, videbis
    funera, cum tumulum praeterlabere recentem!
    nec puer Iliaca quisquam de gente Latinos 875
    in tantum spe tollet avos, nec Romula quondam
    ullo se tantum tellus iactabit alumno.
    heu pietas, heu prisca fides invictaque bello
    dextera! non illi se quisquam impune tulisset
    obvius armato, seu cum pedes iret in hostem 880
    seu spumantis equi foderet calcaribus armos.
    heu, miserande puer, si qua fata aspera rumpas,
    tu Marcellus eris. manibus date lilia plenis
    purpureos spargam flores animamque nepotis
    his saltem accumulem donis, et fungar inani 885

    Who, father, is he who accompanies the hero (Marcellus the Elder) on his way? His son or any one of his great line of descendants? What loud applause from his comrades round him! How alike they are! But black night with its mournful shadow flies around his head."

    Then father Anchises began with tears welling up: "O my son, do not seek to know the great grief of your people. Him fate will merely show to your lands but not allow him to exist beyond that.

    The Roman race seemed too mighty, o gods, if this gift had remained its own. How deep the groans of men, that plain (the Campus Martius where Marcellus was buried) shall send to the great city of Mars! What sad funeral rites you will witness o Tiber, when you flow past his new built sepulchre! No other son of Troy will give such high hope to his Latin forebears nor will the land feel so proud of any other child.

    Alas for his sense of duty, alas for his old fashioned sense of honour and his right hand unconquered in war! No one would have dared to meet him in armed conflict, whether he marched on foot against the enemy or struck his spurs into the flanks of his foaming steed.
    Alas, poor boy, if somehow you break your cruel fate you will be Marcellus. Give lilies by the handful! I will strew bright flowers and with these gifts least honour the spirit of my descendant and fulfil my ghostly duty.

    Stylistic distinctions and possible designers:
    The cartoons that were used for this tapestry are unknown but we have a good idea whose cartoons and designs might have been used. Netherlandish artists who were known to have been used by weavers like Van Aelst include Jan Gossart da Mabuse and Bernaert van Orley.

    The border is specifically a Brussels design and much slimmer and simpler than the borders one would expect from pieces woven later on in the 16th century. (Please refer to images of Los Honores for a comparative on this) The use of labels for characters in these works is important to note too. While some of them appear to be a strange hybrid of Latin and Ancient Greek (possibly to allude to some kind of intellectual mysticism) it is a useful device by which recurring figures can be identified and, not least, specific episodes from the epic poems (or later Medieval renditions of the poems) can be pin-pointed.

    ''Charles VIII's Trojan War Tapestry,'' J P Asselbergh, V&A Museum Yearbook, 1969, pp.80-84.

    Campbell, Thomas P. ''European Tapestry Production and Patronage, 1400–1600.'' In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2002)

    ''Flemish Tapestry Weavers Abroad, Emigration and the Founding of Manufactories in Europe,'' edited by Guy Delmarcel, Leuven University Press, 2002

    ''Resplendence of the Spanish Monarchy, Renaissance Tapestries and Armor from the patrimonio Nacional,'' Antonio Dominguez Orit, Concha Herrero Carretero, Jose A. Godoy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1991

    ''Tapestry in the Baroque, Threads of Splendour,'' The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2007

    ''Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence,''
    Campbell, Thomas P., with contributions by Maryan W. Ainsworth, Rotraud Bauer, Pascal-François Bertrand, Iain Buchanan, Elizabeth Cleland, Guy Delmarcel, Nello Forti Grazzini, Maria Hennel-Bernasikowa, Lorraine Karafel, Lucia Meoni, Cecilia Paredes, Hillie Smit, and Andrea Stockhammer (2002)

    ''The 'Battle of Pavia and the Tapestry Collection of Don Carlos: New Documentation.'' Buchanan, Iain. The Burlington Magazine, vol. 144, no. 1191, 2002, pp. 345–351. JSTOR,
An exceptional first quarter 16th Century mythological and allegorical Tapestry  South Netherlandish, probably woven between 1510-1520
An exceptional first quarter 16th Century mythological and allegorical Tapestry  South Netherlandish, probably woven between 1510-1520
An exceptional first quarter 16th Century mythological and allegorical Tapestry  South Netherlandish, probably woven between 1510-1520
An exceptional first quarter 16th Century mythological and allegorical Tapestry  South Netherlandish, probably woven between 1510-1520
An exceptional first quarter 16th Century mythological and allegorical Tapestry  South Netherlandish, probably woven between 1510-1520
An exceptional first quarter 16th Century mythological and allegorical Tapestry  South Netherlandish, probably woven between 1510-1520
An exceptional first quarter 16th Century mythological and allegorical Tapestry  South Netherlandish, probably woven between 1510-1520
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