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.
Orders for duplicate sets at once began to pour into Brussels. For three pieces that totalled 73 3/8 aunes (about 38 square yards) Francis I, in 1534, paid the enormous price of 50 golden ecus per aune. Henry VIII acquired a set of nine pieces rich with gold that, at the time of the Charles I sale, was purchased by the Spanish Ambassador to England, Don Alonzo de Cardeñas, who sold it to the Duke of Alba in 1662. In 1833, it was bought by a British Consul in Spain, who sold it to a London merchant. In 1844 it was bought for the Berlin Museum.
Another set once owned by the Duke of Alba was presented recently to the British nation by Baron d'Erlanger, and is now on exhibition at Hampton Court. The nine pieces composing it were woven in the early seventeenth century, in the workshop of the great Jan Raes of Brussels. Seven of them hang in the King's Gallery, which was built by Sir Christopher Wren for the display of the cartoons. The remaining two - the Stoning of Saint Stephen and the Conversion of Saul - hang in the dining-room.
One of the sets of nine in the Imperial Austrian Collection has been the subject of much controversy. On October 8, 1539, according to the anonymous author of a pamphlet published in New York in 1901, entitled the Raphael Cartoons, Duke Frederic Gonzaga wrote to Nicolas Karcher as follows:
Nicolas Karcher, master-weaver of Brussels, must come to our estates, because we desire him to weave tapestries for our court from the drawings which we will order to be given to him. We desire that he shall be provided with all the conveniences necessary for his labour. For all the time that he shall remain in Mantua he shall have wine and all necessary, etc.
To which Karcher replied:
Your generosity is known to all the world. I am at your command, and will do all that is in my power to be useful to you, and to please you. I will be much honoured to serve you in my art. I dare to hope that you will give me all the means necessary for my work.......
Your humble servitor,
Nicolas Karcher, Master-weaver of Flemish tapestries.
Furthermore we are told that Duke Hercules on his death in 1563 bequeathed to his nephew, Duke William, "the tapestries called the Acts of the Apostles, for the church of Saint Barbara".
So that there would seem some reason for supposing that Karcher wove this Acts of the Apostles set for the Duke, if we did not know that the different pieces of the set - which was removed from the church of Santa Barbara to the ducal castle in Mantua by the Empress Maria Theresa, and from there to Vienna in 1866 - bear the Brussels mark and the monograms of Brussels weavers, as well as the arms of Duke Hercules.
A second set of nine pieces in the Imperial Austrian Collection, woven in Brussels in the XVI century, was acquired in 1804 from the Ruffo family of Naples by the Emperor Francis I. Each piece bears the Brussels mark and a monogram.
Of the two XVI century sets of nine in the Royal Spanish Collection, one has a Flemish border of ribbons and flowers. The other has a full set of side and bottom borders including, and in the style of, the side borders of the Vatican set (See Tapestry Borders in chapter X (Tapestry Signatures And Makers. Tapestry Captions. Tapestry Borders. Tapestry Shapes And Sizes And Measurements)), and though without the Brussels mark, signed with the monograms of the weavers who signed the Gonzaga set in the Imperial Austrian Collection. It may be regarded as certain that both the Gonzaga set and the last Spanish set mentioned were woven not long after the completion of the Vatican set and from the same cartoons.
Three pieces belonging to the City of Milan, exhibited at the Retrospective Exposition there in 1874, and bearing the coat of arms of Cardina Mazarin, Muentz regards as identical with tapestries woven for Louis XIV's famous minister in Paris and bequeathed by him to Marquis Mancini.
Plate no. 89. St. Peter Heals the Lame Man. Renaissance tapestry after Raphael, 4.92 metres by 7. 54, one of a set of 9 Acts of the Apostles in the Royal Spanish Collection. Two are signed with the monogram of one Brussels maker, seven with the monogram of another Brussels maker, but none with the Brussels double B. The story of how Peter fastening his eyes upon the lame man, said "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk," is told in the third chapter of Acts.
The set now in the Cathedral of Beauvais was woven at the Beauvais works by Philip Béhagle, whose signature appears in the selvage. At the Gobelins several sets have been woven, notably one by Laurent, Lefévre, and Jans under the direction of Lebrun. About sets woven at Mortlake, sec chapter V (Mortlake, Merton, And Other English Looms). For illustration of Acts of the Apostles tapestries, see plates nos. 83, 85, 89, 91, 93.
The subjects of the ten original tapestries are: (1) the Miraculous Draught of Fish, (2) the Charge to Saint Peter, (3) the Cure of the Paralytic, (4) the Death of Ananias, (5) the Stoning of Sain Stephen, (6) the Conversion of Saint Paul, (7) Elymas Struck Blind, (8) the Sacrifice at Lystra, (9) Saint Paul in Prison, (10) Saint Paul on the Areopagus. In reproductions, Saint Paul in Prisor was uniformly omitted because of its small size and lack of interest. From the cartoons bought for Mortlake and now at South Kensington, the Stoning of Saint Stephen and the Conversion of Saint Pau were also missing, so that Mortlake sets contain seven tapestries only.
The original tapestries woven for Leo X had their share of vicissitude. The walls of the Vatican wen no protection. The portableness of the tapestries made them the easy prey of looters and thieves while the other decorations of the Sistine - the frescoes - stayed securely in place. Their first misfortune was to be pawned immediately after Leo's death in 1521. The great painter was then dead a year, so both Leo and Raphael were spared the ignominy of seeing the tapestries mortgaged for the comparatively small sum of 5,000 ducats. Next the tapestries were loot for the hordes that sacked Rome, in 1527, under the Constable Bourbon. The soldiers sold them in various parts of the world. The "Conversion of Saul" and "St. Paul at Athens" are known to have been in Venice the following year. This latter piece wandered to Constantinople where it and the "Draught of Fishes" were bought by the Constable Montmorency and returned to Julius III.