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.
The first set of Vulcan and Venus, in nine pieces, woven plain without gold, except "in the piece of Apollo and for the letters, 16 oz. at 6s. the ounce," amounting to a total of £4 16s., had cost Charles £2,000, paid in three instalments: £500 on January 15, 1620; £500 on May 17, 1621; £1,000 on March 17, 1621. It was begun on September 16, 1620, and finished on June 5, 1622.
The three "suits of gold tapestry," mentioned above - also picturing Vulcan and Venus according to Dru Burton the Auditor-General - who about 1630 lost his position for protesting against what he regarded as the exorbitant charges of Sir Francis - cost Charles, according to Burton, £3,000 apiece.
The details that Burton supplies (in the State papers of Charles I) are exceedingly interesting. Vulcan and Venus, he says, "is the foundation of all good Tapestries made in England." The whole set contained 479 ells I stick 5/8 Flemish. "It cost the undertaker materials, workmanship and all other charges being included, by just account, £905 8s. I9d., which comes to 37s. Iod., the Flemish ell or thereabouts. ... It was sold to yr Ma beeing Prince for £2,000 as containing 500 ells fl. at £4, the elle, the most part of the monie being imprested before the work was finished, whereby was clearly gained to the undertaker of that manufacture £1,094 11s. 10 1/2d." A marginal note states that Burton made this account "according to Philip de Maecht's books and instructions [he] being Mr. and Director of the Tapistrs".
The items of cost of the first set, reprinted in full by Thomson on page 307, show that Peter de Craight received £23 13s. for weaving the Nakeds, Louis Vermoulen £24 3s. for the Faceworke, Philip de Maecht the overseer Director Tapissiers 4s. out of every ell for the common worke and 4s. the elle for the faceworke, being together 486 ells 10 stocks 3/4, amounting to £97 6s. 6d. The cost of "silke, yarne, warpe," and gold is also given in itemized form.
Burton's attack did Sir Francis no harm, and the impression one gets from going through the accounts is that Charles I was anxious to be munificent in helping build up the industry. He visited the Mortlake factory in person on March 28, 1629, and even considered with Sir Francis the establishment of another tapestry works in the manorhouse of Grafton.
The death, in June, 1636, of Sir Francis, who had gone to Paris in March to undergo a surgical operation, ended the prosperity of Mortlake. His brother, Captain Richard Crane, soon got into financial difficulties. The 140 persons connected with the works petitioned the King, claiming that he owed them £545 3s. 8d., and had paid them nothing for nine months. Their petition is described in the State papers as that of "the poor men of Mortlake." One year after the death of Sir Francis, Richard Crane sold out his interest to the King for £5,811 10s. 6d., and Mortlake became a royal factory known as "the King's Works." The five principal weavers agreed to make 600 ells of tapestry yearly for a fixed price, and to train apprentices. The King, on his part, agreed to give an annual subsidy of £2,000, and to increase the allowance of the art director, Francis Cleyn, to £250 a year, with the understanding that out of that sum he was to pay an assistant.
Some of the prices paid to Richard Crane for tapestries woven under his regime and before are interesting. For a set of Hero and Leander, containing 284 Flemish ells at £6 an ell, £1,704. For a piece of Saint Paul and Elymas the Sorcerer containing 83 ells at £8 the ell, £664. For a piece of Diana and Calisto containing 63 ells at £8 the ell, £504. For a set of the Horses, £1,204. For "two pieces on the looms with a tawny border," £269 13s. 6d. For "three other pieces on the looms," £380 10s. 4d. For "two pieces more of the same set, which are finished," £334. For "sundry silks and yarns," £362 13s. 4d.
In January, 1638, a set of the Story of Saint Paul, containing 3,064 ells Flemish, was sold to the Lord Chamberlain for £804 11s. 3d. In December, 1639, five pieces of the Story of the Apostles were sold to the Earl Holland for £886 17s. 6d. In 1641, one of the workmen received £85 with which to purchase cartoons of the Story of Dido and Æneas, in the Netherlands.
The outbreak of the Great Rebellion in 1642 made it impossible for the King to keep up his payments. In 1643 he owed the works £3,937 and the workmen petitioned for leave to export tapestries to the Netherlands free of duty, a remarkable instance of wanting to "carry coals to Newcastle." On January 30, 1649, Charles I was put to death at Whitehall in London.
One of the first acts of the Commonwealth (1649-1660), was to make a priced inventory of the household goods "belonging to the late King," and have them sold "by order of the Council of State, from ye severall Places and Palaces," as Denmark House, Somerset House, Oatelands, Windsor, Hampton Court, Richmond, Syon House, Whitehall, Caris-brook, etc., etc. The inventory was among the manuscripts (Bibl. Harl. No. 4898), collected by Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford and Queen Anne's famous minister, and now preserved in the British Museum. The part of the inventory covering tapestries will be found complete on pages 351-395 of Thomson.
Nevertheless, the Commonwealth made some efforts to promote the weaving of tapestries at Mort-lake. The buildings were repaired, and Sir Gilbert Pickering was put in charge, with John Holliburie (Hallenbirch), as overseer. In 1653 Mantegna's series of nine paintings picturing the Triumph of Caesar, was ordered sent from Hampton Court in order that it might be copied for use as tapestry cartoons. In 1657, Philip Hallenbirch proposed the execution of the Story of Abraham, by himself. The Council of State finally referred the question of new designs to Francis Cleyn, giving him the option of weaving one or both "if his Highness [Cromwell] shall so direct." Cromwell was personally so fond of tapestry as to hang his bedroom at Hampton Court with "five pieces of fine tapestry hangings of Vulcan and Venus".