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 Restoration of 1660 did not help matters much at Mortlake. Not until 1662 were the proposals of Sir Sackville Crow to Charles II for the revival of the industry acted on. In that year he received a grant of the government of the tapestry works at Mortlake with £1,000 a year toward the upkeep, and a warrant to search out all paintings and cartoons for tapestry that had belonged to Charles I. He was to pay a nominal rent of 5s. per year, and Verrio, the court painter, was to supply designs.
In 1667 Sir Sackville sent in his resignation, finding - so he says in a letter dated May, 1670, to the Countess of Rutland, preserved in the Belvoir Manuscripts and reprinted by the Historical Manuscripts Commission of Great Britain - "that busines without his Majestie's encouragement rather a burden than a bennifitt to mee to keepe itt upp to that perfection I found and made itt".
Francus Poyntz was the next manager of the Mortlake tapestry works and continued to hold the position until at least 1678. In 1668 Charles II paid him £495 5s. for a set of the Bacchanals, and £316 6s. 3d. for the Story of Polidore. In 1669 he bought five Caesar panels after Mantegna's designs - 137 1/2 Flemish ells (a square Flemish ell is 9/16 of a yard), at £4 a yard - for £550. Also the Acts of the Apostles, 143 3/4 ells at £1 15s. per ell, for £251 11s. 3d. In 1673 five tapestries picturing the Story of the Boyes (Giulio Romano's Children Playing), containing 86 1/3 ells, were acquired for the King's Great Wardrobe, at £4 an ell, for £345 6s. 8d.
Poyntz's initials and the date 1672 appear on a large tapestry belonging to the Marquis of Chol-mondeley (Houghton Hall), illustrated by Thomson opposite page 324, and picturing separately with borders between, James I, and Anne of Denmark his Queen, Charles I and Henrietta Maria his Queen, Christian IV of Denmark brother of Anne. The vertical borders also carry in the middle, oval medallion portraits of the royal children. The price paid for this tapestry was £1,416 13s. 11d.
There are also three pieces of tapestry signed by Francus Poyntz at Hampton Court, in the Prince of Wales' Bedroom. They illustrate the naval battle of Solebay (Southwold), fought on May 28, 1672, between the Dutch under De Ruyter and the combined English and French fleets under the Duke of York and the Count d'Estrees. It is difficult to understand why the English wished to commemorate the event in tapestry, for the allies were distinctly worsted, the Duke of York losing his flagship, and his second in command the Earl of Sandwich losing not only his ship but his life.
These three pieces of tapestry, probably only part of the original set, are 12 feet high, and the first two are each 24 feet long. The third piece is folded in. The panels show ships in action and are not particularly interesting in design or weave or color. Indeed it is to these three tapestries that Boettiger Swedish, page 73 of volume II, attributes the fact that "the products of the Mortlake factory do not appear to be well known or much appreciated in England." The first and third pieces are signed with the Mortlake shield between the initials F and P. The second piece substitutes for the initials the full name Francvs Poyntz. The Mortlake shield - that is, the shield of St. George, a red cross on a silver ground - appears in its complete form, not misshapen and with cross gone as on many Mortlake tapestries.
In 1678 Poyntz petitioned the King on behalf of the foreign Roman Catholic weavers, whom a recent proclamation obliged to leave the country (page 69 of part 2 of report XI of Britain Manuscripts). He also seized the opportunity to bring the whole tapestry situation to the King's attention. He argued that England had the best wool in the world for tapestry, and that the added imports of silk from Turkey would increase the exports of English wool in exchange. The workmen in France and Flanders were not thriving and could easily be induced to cross the Channel. The £100,000 paid every year for imported tapestry would be kept at home.
Poyntz's petition does not appear to have produced the desired result and the business continued in the doldrums. Finally, in 1703, the property was released by Queen Anne from the restrictions imposed by Charles I that it must be used for the manufacture of tapestry. This was the end of the Mortlake tapestry works.
That the Mortlake Works were in operation as late as 1688, when Ralph Montague was created Earl, is proved by four square tapestry table-covers bearing, in the middle on a dark green ground, his arms as Earl Montague of Houghton, with wide border of foliage and eagles and arms in the middle of each side. Montague House and Houghton both contain certain pieces from the Naked Boys series with small borders.
About the merit of the tapestries woven at Mortlake during the lifetime of Sir Francis Crane, there can be no difference of opinion. The manager, Philip de Maecht, was highly efficient, the artistic director, Francis Cleyn, was equally skilful at adapting and creating, and there was money available to buy supplies and pay the men.
Among the most famous sets woven in the golden period were Vulcan and Venus, after XVI century designs (by Rivieres on the authority of Sir Sack-ville Crow in a letter to the Countess of Rutland dated May 7, 1670); the Naked Boyes, after the XVI century designs of Raphael's pupil Giulio Romano; the Acts of the Apostles after the famous cartoons of Raphael that are still preserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum; Hero and Leander, and the Horses, by Francis Cleyn; the Twelve Months, after XVI century designs.
The Triumph of Julius Caesar, by Mantegna, nine paintings, nine feet square, still preserved at Hampton Court, appears to have been first put on the looms in the reign of Charles II, from cartoons ordered by Cromwell.
Probably the best monument to the Mortlake tapestry works is the set of Acts of the Apostles, after Raphael (See my chapter on Renaissance Tapestries), preserved in the French National Collection. Four of them are illustrated in Guichard French. The full set of seven is described in Louis XIV Inventory no. 34 on page 300 of volume I, as follows: