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.
These tapestries have no borders, but the edges are marked with columns or foliage.
Lenoncourt was evidently a great amateur of tapestries, for he also presented the Cathedral of Reims with a set of 17 picturing the Story of the
Plate no. 65. Tapestry 16 feet high, the first of a set of ten presented to the Church of Saint Re mi in Reims by Archbishop Robert de Lenoncourt, whose portrait kneeling before an altar appears on the last of the set with French verses that give the date as 1531 (See chapter II (Gothic Tapestries)). The Archbishop's coat of arms appears twice on the tapestry illustrated, of which the subject is the Conversion of Clovis by Saint Rémi, as explained by the French verses. In the upper part of the tapestry is pictured the Battle of Tolbiac, which Clovis wins by turning Christian and believing in the God of his wife Clothilde. Below on the left, Saint Rémi summoned by Clothilde exhorts King Clovis, and on the right baptizes him. In this set of tapestries Gothic and Renaissance are delightfully intermingled.
Virgin, all of which survive, but three are in such bad condition as to be no longer shown. No. 16 of the set bears the Archbishop's name as donor and 1530 the date of completion. All the pieces of both sets bear the Archbishop's coat of arms. The composition of these Virgin tapestries is particularly interesting. In the middle, occupying the larger part of the panel, an event in the Virgin's life, framed in a Renaissance portico. On each side, above, an appropriate scene from the Old Testament. On one side, below, a prophet announcing the event, on the other witnessing it. For the subordinate scenes there are captions in Latin. The main event is described by two French quatrains below. Along the top of the tapestries that are 17 1/2 feet high runs a Renaissance border of rinceaux shaded in relief, with winged heads and fleurs-de-lis at intervals.
The Story of Saint Etienne in 9 pieces at the Cluny Museum pictures the life of the first Christian martyr and the discovery of his body 476 years after his death, following the Legenda Aurea (Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints), written by Jacques de Voragine, Bishop of Bologna and Archbishop of Genoa, in the XIII century. These tapestries are long and narrow and evidently intended for choir hangings. Each pictures two scenes. The set was presented to the Cathedral of Auxerre, in 1502, by Bishop Jehan Baillet.
Saint Quentin, at the Louvre, is a tapestry about 11 feet high by 26 long, picturing the Story of a robber condemned to death for horse-stealing, but saved by the intercession of Saint Quentin. Eight quatrains in French explain the different scenes.
One of the most remarkable sets ever woven is the Life of Christ at La Chaise-Dieu. There are fourteen pieces designed to decorate the stalls and doors of the abbey choir, three large and almost square for the bays, eleven narrow friezes from 19 to 26 feet long, for the other positions. The coat of arms several times repeated is that of Jacques de Senecterre, Abbot of La Chaise-Dieu from 1491 to 1518. The tapestries are said to have been hung for the first time on April 17, 1518. The composition of the pictures reminds one of that of the Reims Story of the Virgin. Each scene from the Life of Christ is framed in Gothic columns, between two more or less appropriate scenes from the Old Testament. According to M. Emile Male these groupings were lifted bodily from the ancient Bible des Pauvres, and the Speculum Humanae Salvationis, thus saving the expense and trouble of original designs. The subjects of the first tapestry are the Annunciation, with Eve tempted by the Serpent on one side and the angel appearing to Gideon clad as a knight on the other; the Nativity, with Moses before the burning Bush on one side and Aaron watching his staff put forth Blossoms on the other; the Adoration of the Magi, with soldiers bringing water back to David from the fountain of Bethlehem on one side, and the Queen of Sheba before Solomon on the other. Nine scenes in one tapestry, over 70 in the set, besides numerous prophets in the upper and lower borders between the Latin captions in Gothic letters.
Remarkable for beauty of colouring and vivacity of tone is the Story of the Virgin, in the church of Notre Dame de Beaune, in five pieces and 17 scenes of irregular sizes framed in Late Gothic jewelled columns and arches, with grace a dieu woven in above the capitals of the columns, and several Latin inscriptions irregularly placed. These tapestries were exhibited at the Paris Expositions of 1889 and 1900 where they were much admired. There are photographic illustrations of four of them opposite page 80 of Guiffrey Seizieme, and of one scene on plate no. 69. The subjects are the Nativity, and the Presentation at the Temple, of the Virgin; Married, Conducted to the House of Joseph, Annunciation; Visitation, Nativity of Jesus, Circumcision of Jesus; Adoration of the Magi; Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, Flight into Egypt, Massacre of the Innocents; Angel ordering the Holy Family to return from Egypt, Death of the Virgin, Coronation of the Virgin. There are in addition two scenes, one on the second tapestry and one on the fourth, in which are pictured the two donors: Jean Rolin, son of Nicolas Rolin who was Chancellor of Philip the Good, and Archdeacon Hugues Lecoq. The former is accompanied by his patron, Saint John, the latter by his patron, Saint Hugh. Beneath each, a Latin inscription and the same coat of arms. Beside the donor in the Hugues Lecoq scene is the Latin inscription S. hugo abbas clunensis (Saint Hugh Abbot of Cluny). Above this scene appears the French inscription Cest tapisserie Jut faicte Ian de grace mil Vc (This tapestry was made in the year of grace, 1500). About the cartoons we have definite information. They were ordered in 1474 of Pierre Spicre, a Flemish painter of Dijon, by Chancellor Rolin, "to be executed in distemper for the purpose of being translated into tapestries".