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.
Plate no. 393. Saint Paul before Agrippa and Berenice, a Renaissance tapestry in the Royal Spanish Collection. The Latin inscription in the top border on the left reads: "Paul before Judge Festus and King Agrippa and Berenice, appeals to Caesar and tells what has happened to him." The one on the right reads: "Paul together with Aristarchus embarks on a ship and is brought to Rome".
The weave of this tapestry is masterful, with long hatchings that interpret marvellously the elaborately figured costumes and damask ground. It will be noted that all the personages are clothed except the two being baptised. Even Adam and Eve show little bare flesh. Far different this from the nude and semi-nude figures inherited by the Renaissance from ancient Rome. (For other facts about the Mazarin tapestry, see chapter II (Gothic Tapestries).)
The XV century designers and weavers of tapestry worked along the right lines. They knew the possibilities of the high-warp loom and utilised them to the utmost. But they did not attempt the impossible in the way of open sky and water and unpat-terned surfaces, which are what hampered the efforts of later weavers and finally caused tapestry to become one of the neglected arts.
The five Late Gothic tapestries, lent to the Metropolitan Museum by the late Alfred W. Hoyt, are also of unusual merit from the weave point of view. They represent the antithesis of paint texture. The hatchings are long and strong and numerous. The ribs are coarse and obvious, but flat and delightfully irregular.
The sizes and subjects of the five tapestries are:
No. 1. A Garden Party, 8 feet 9 1/4 x 13 feet 1 1/4. No. 2. A Garden Party with Music, 8 feet 7 5/8 x 17 feet 7 1/2.
Plate no. 395. The Triumph of Time, and the Triumph of Cupid, two Late Gothic tapestries lent to the Metropolitan Museum by the late Alfred W. Hoyt (See chapter XVII).
No. 3. The Triumph of Time, 13 feet 3 3/4 x 9 feet 11 1/8. No. 4. The Triumph of Cupid, 12 feet 9 3/4x9 feet 5. No. 5. An Unidentified Story, 12 feet 10 3/4 x 10 feet 9 3/8.
All were woven in Brussels in the first quarter of the XVI century and all are distinctly Flemish in character. No. 1, illustrated on colour plate no. II, is especially interesting in design, composition, and weave, and is in excellent condition. No. I has 16 ribs to the inch, while the others have 12.
It belongs to the same school of design and workmanship as the Scene from a Novel in the Hoentschel Collection lent by Mr. Morgan to the Metropolitan Museum. While the latter is nearly square (12 feet 3 by 12 feet 1 1/4), it so closely resembles No. 1 in other respects as to make comparison important. The central figure of both is a woman seated on a throne. In the Hoentschel tapestry she carries in her right hand the sceptre of royalty, and with the aid of her secretaries at the table below is preparing letters to be despatched by the mounted messengers visible in the extreme upper corners. The action in No. 1 is purely social. The scene is entirely out-of-doors with no pavilion to protect the presiding lady. On the right new arrivals are being welcomed. On the left a gentleman assists a lady to rise. Elsewhere couples in animated conversation. Both tapestries have the sky-line at the extreme top with only a narrow band of landscape and trees showing through. Both have a narrow foreground of flowers and herbage, and in both every inch is well covered with pattern or design. The costumes in both are noteworthy for richness and elegance.
No. 2, a Garden Party with Music, immediately suggests the Garden Musical that was No. 12 of the Lowengard Collection, sold in Paris in 1910, and also the Garden Concert illustrated in Guichard French. In all three the personages are elegantly costumed. Especially noteworthy are the fur trimmings on the costumes of No. 2 that is crowded with human figures, containing thirty-four large personages besides two small ones in the background. The whole scene is lively and gay. Conversation is animated. On the left the master of ceremonies kneels to greet a lady who is followed by a group issuing from a castle. Over the doorway are represented two winged cherubs holding a cartouche with heraldic emblem. Below them a band of ornament with winged cherub-head. Above the master of ceremonies a group of four, three ladies and a gentleman. One of the ladies offers another a plate of fruit. To the right of the group, a lady with stringed instrument, of mandolin shape, and attentive cavalier. Below them a lady with small instrument, strung like a harp, and also an attentive cavalier. In the middle of the tapestry a group of four, three ladies and a gentleman. One of the ladies offers another a very attractive plate of fruit. Behind them, with only the square canopy and upper part of the back showing, a throne. The pattern of the back shows a double-headed eagle. On the right of the tapestry a group of three, two ladies and a gentleman. One lady offers the other a covered jewelled cup. Behind them two groups of three, and one of two.
In the upper left corner of no. 3, the Triumph of Time, appears the Latin caption in Gothic letters Tempus vincit famam (Time conquers fame). Time is pictured as a young woman seated on a chariot drawn by four spirited and richly caparisoned horses, and holding a clock aloft in her left hand. Across the top of the tapestry runs the zodiacal band picturing the Scorpion (partially hidden behind Time), the Scales, the Virgin, the Lion, the Crab. Fame (fame) lies helpless in the lower right corner of the tapestry, and the rest of the foreground is occupied by a procession of the Olympic deities in pairs - Jupiter (iupiter), and Juno leading the way. Jupiter carries a sceptre in his right hand.