This section is from the book "Tapestries; Their Origin, History And Renaissance", by George Leland Hunter. Also available from Amazon: Tapestries; Their Origin, History, And Renaissance.
Of tapestries woven at Arras, however, there remains only one set that can be positively identified, the Story of Saint Piat and Saint Eleuthère at the Cathedral of Tournai in Belgium. But as if to make up for our lack of information about other ancient tapestries that may have been woven at Arras, we not only know that the Saint Piat and Saint Eleuthère tapestries were woven there, but we also know the exact month and year of their completion, the name of the maker, and the name of the donor. For one of the pieces now lost bore the following inscription which was fortunately copied and preserved by XVIII century writers:
Ces draps furent faicts et acheves
En Arras par Pierrot Fere
L'an mil quatre cent et deux
En Decenibre mois gracieux and a little lower down:
Veuillez a Dieu tous saincts prier
Pour Vame de Toussaint Prier. which translated read:
These cloths were made and completed
In Arras by Pierrot Fere
The year one thousand four hundred two
In December gracious month
Will all the saints kindly pray to God
For the soul of Toussaint Prier?
This Toussaint Prier who gave the tapestries to the Cathedral of Tournai was a canon there in 1402, but later became chaplain to Philip the Good and died October 15, 1437.
While the colours are much faded and greyed, they still preserve a certain freshness, and these tapestries are, as documents in tapestry history, second in importance to the Angers Apocalypse only. The material is wool without gold or silk. The borders are later additions. Originally there were eighteen scenes picturing the Lives and Miracles of Saint Piat and Saint Eleuthere, all with French inscriptions above. Of the eighteen, only fifteen survive, in four pieces, 6 feet 10 inches high with a combined width of 71 feet 8 inches.
The subjects of the three missing pieces were: the Beheading of Saint Piat, the People of Tournai accompanying the body of Saint Piat to Seclin, the Miracle at Seclin when the Body of Saint Piat arrived there (See page 182 of Pinchart Flemish, who gives a photographic illustration of one of the surviving pieces). The subjects of the six Saint Piat scenes that survive are: Mission of Saint Piat and his Eleven Companions, His arrival at Tournai during a Sacrifice of Lambs to an Idol, His Preaching before the parents and grandparents of Saint Eleuthere, Destruction of Idols in consequence of his Preaching, Laying the Corner-stone of the Cathedral of Tournai, Baptism of the parents and grandparents of Saint Eleuthère. The subjects of the nine scenes picturing the Life of Saint Eleuthère are: Saint Eleuthère Baptises Pagans, His departure for Rome, Reception by the Pope, He is Crowned Bishop, Death of Blande the Tribune's daughter who fell in love with Him, He restores Her to Life in the presence of Her Father and Soldiers, He Baptises Her, Ravages of the Plague among the Pagans, Blande's Father wishes to recover her from the Christians.
The most important Early XV century tapestry in the United States, and one that deserves to be mentioned side by side with the treasures of Angers and of Tournai, is the Burgundian Sacraments presented to the Metropolitan Museum of New York by Mr. Morgan and described in chapter XVI (Tapestries At The Metropolitan Museum). Of the original fourteen scenes, only seven remain, in five fragments, with inscriptions misplaced. An unusual feature of the tapestry is the brick wall border with floriation outside (See plates nos. 46, 47). The tapestry was originally about 17 feet high by 38 feet wide. A large size this when compared with XVIII century Gobelin Don Quixote panels, but not when compared with the Apocalypse, or with the now lost Battle of Rosebecke that was recorded in an inventory of the Emperor Charles V in 1536 as "very old and full of holes." This Battle was ordered by Philip the Bold Duke of Burgundy, of Michel Bernard, and was delivered by the latter in 1387, five years after this famous victory of the French over the Flemish. The cartoon cost 200 gold francs and the cost of weaving was 1,600 gold francs. It was worked in Cyprus gold and silver on a verdure ground. The dimensions were 7 1/4 aunes high by 56 long - about 16 1/2 feet by 126, if the aunes were Flemish aunes as seems probable. If they were French aunes, as M. Guiffrey thinks, then the dimensions were about 28 feet by 207. At any rate the tapestry was so unwieldy that, .in 1402, it was divided into three pieces and later each of these pieces was divided in two.
Plates no. 46. 47. The Burgundian Sacraments tapestry given to the Metropolitan Museum by Mr. Morgan, constants of seven scenes in five fragments, two of which are mounted wrong side out. In my illustrations these two fragments have been reversed by the photographer, and all of the five fragments, at least two of which have pulled out of shape during the centu es, have been assembled as nearly as possible in their original relative position. Originally the tapestry contained fourteen scenes, the upper seven illustrating the origin of the Seven Sacraments, the lower seven the Seven Sacraments as c leorated in the XV century. Between the upper and the lower scenes or possibly above the upper scenes ran a descriptive series of French verses in Gothic letters. For transcription and translation of the captions and other information about the oldest and most interesting tapestry at the Museum, see chapter XVI (Tapestries At The Metropolitan Museum). For the "point of view" see chapter XIII (The Tapestry Point Of View), and for the Wiginal size see chapter II (Gothic Tapestries).
Among the most interesting Gothic tapestries are the verdures, with or without personages, often described in modern sale catalogues as mille-fleur tapestries. Gothic verdures are in method and character entirely different from Renaissance and later verdures. The Gothic verdures are in effect flat outline drawings coloured up - a forest of flowers and herbage and foliage inhabited by birds and animals - strongly resembling many of the XV century Persian rugs. The Renaissance verdures introduce heavily shaded leaves and, in achieving the realistic, lose much of the decorative.