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 De Somzee sale totalled 88 tapestries at $160,000. The same tapestries to-day are worth much more, despite financial conditions unfavourable during the past ten years to rapid increase of price, and within the next twenty years will be worth twenty times as much.
At the Marquand sale in New York in 1903, the Madonna with Attendants, a Renaissance tapestry 8 feet 2 by 7 feet, sold for $21,000. An Italian XVIII century tapestry signed by Nouzou - one of the set woven in Rome from 1735 to 1739 by Nouzou and Ferloni, of which the Coles collection of the Metropolitan Museum contains several, all of which illustrate scenes from Tasso's "Jerusalem Delivered," and came from the Hamilton Palace sale held in London in 1882 - brought $15,000, which is all it is likely ever to be worth. The purchasers both in London and New York were evidently attracted by the ducal name. It is significant that both in London and New York, this tapestry was catalogued as a Gobelin. The New York price was about four times the London one.
Also at the Marquand sale three Renaissance tapestries brought respectively $4,600, $4,500, and $2,900. The sizes were 9 feet 2 by 10 feet 6, 9 feet 2 by 10 feet 4, 9 feet 2 by 6 feet 11. The first pictured the Queen of Sheba before Solomon, the last two the Triumph of David after killing Goliath.
At the White sale in New York in 1907, four fine Renaissance Grotesques (often incorrectly called Arabesques) sold for $5,100, $3,600, $3,200, and $2,300, respectively. The sizes were 11 feet 8 by 17 feet 2, 11 feet 8 by 8, 11 feet 8 by 8 feet 6, 11 feet 5 by 7. Commerce, a Brussels XVIII century tapestry 15 feet 3 by 19, signed by D. Leyniers, similar in weave and quite equal to most Gobelin and Beauvais tapestries of the same period, was purchased by Robert Goelet for $10,500.
At the Polovtsoff sale in Paris in 1909, the Story of Tobias, six Flemish tapestries 3.35 metres high with combined width of 21.40 metres, sold for 24,700 francs. The Temple of Venus, three Beauvais tapestries 4.20 metres by 5, 4.15 metres by 4.41, 4.12 metres by 3.28, woven in 1726 under the direction of De Mérou after cartoons by Duplessis, brought 299,100 francs.
The Seasons, four Gobelin tapestries, 3.05 metres high with combined width of 7.95, signed by Cozette, 1781, brought 376,000 francs. The crowning price of the sale was 910,000 francs paid for the Loves of the Gods, four Beauvais XVIII century tapestries woven under the direction of Besnier, Oudry, and Charron after cartoons by Boucher: Ariadne and Bacchus 3.55 metres by 8.20, Mars and Venus 3.55 metres by 3.55, Boreas and Orythia 3.55 metres by 3.60, Vulcan and Venus 3.55 metres by 6.75.
At the Yerkes sale in New York in 1910, Neptune and Amymone, a Gobelin XVIII century tapestry 10 feet 4 by 9 feet 1, brought $4,000. Vulcan and Venus, a Gobelin XVIII century tapestry 10 feet 3 by 8 feet 3, signed by Audran, $17,700. The Rape of Europa, a Gobelin XVIII century tapestry 10 feet 6 by 8 feet 3, $12,300. Pluto and Proserpine, a Gobelin XVIII century tapestry 10 feet 6 by 8 feet 7, $5,200. A Brussels XVII century tapestry 13 feet 10 by 15 feet 6, enriched with gold, signed with the Brussels mark and the weaver's monogram, M, $6,600. Six Brussels XVII century tapestries from designs in the style of Teniers, one of them signed P. V. D. BORCHT, the smallest 9 feet 8 by 2 feet 7, $850; the largest 9 feet 10 by 12 feet 10, $4,300. The Gobelins undoubtedly sold for more because they had formerly been in the collection of the Princess de Sagan.
Cupid And Psyche
Plate no. 23. The Bath of Cupid and Psyche, a Louis XIV Gobelin in the set of eight entitled Sujets de la Fable, after the XVI century designs of Guilio Romano (See chapter VI (French Looms, The Gobelins: Beauvais: Aubusson)). It is signed LEFEBVRE (Lefèevre) and is in the French National Collection. The dominant color in both border and panel is rose against which the flesh tones stand out with wonderful clearness and delicacy. Note the double L monogram of Louis XIV in the cartouche of the bottom border.
Among other interesting prices at recent public sales were the Acts of the Apostles after the Raphael cartoons, seven Brussels XVIII century tapestries signed D. LEYNIERS, at Christie's in London in 1910 for £1,785. (Multiply pounds by 5 to get dollars.) At the same place in 1911, ten panels of old Brussels tapestry for £9,502 10s, about $4,700 a panel; also, the Story of Diana, six Brussels tapestries for £1,207 10s. At the Hotel Drouot in Paris in 1911. two Flemish verdure tapestries for 25,000 francs; Chinese Dining and Chinese Dancing, a Beauvais tapestry containing two scenes from the series depicting Chinese life, woven for the first time in 1743 under the direction of Besnier and Oudry after sketches by Boucher, sold for 142,000 francs. A Flemish XVI century tapestry picturing a tournament in a park, 15,500 francs; an XVIII century tapestry showing a lady and a gentleman walking in the country, 24,100 francs; Proserpine, an XVIII century Spanish tapestry signed by L. VAN DER GOTTEN of Madrid, 21,200 francs.
During the XIX century it did not pay to weave reproductions of antique tapestries. It was cheaper to buy the antiques themselves.
Now all that is changed, and we may expect a period of great prosperity for tapestry looms in the
Plate no. 25. An interior that illustrates the proper use of tapestries. From the residence of the late Stanford White. On the wall in the foreground three Renaissance tapestries, one large and two small, in the extremely decorative Grotesque style. In the music room beyond can be seen Oriental Commerce, a large tapestry 15 feet 3 by 19, woven at Brussels in the first half of the XVIII century and signed D. Leyniers.
United States as well as in France and Italy and England and Germany, especially if the museums and the private collectors who own the masterpieces are generous in allowing them to be copied, and do everything in their power to supplement the Renaissance of tapestry values, by a Renaissance of tapestry weaving according to the methods of the XV and XVI centuries.
Many persons look at tapestries as if they were photographs or photographic paintings, obliged to conform to the limitations imposed by mechanical perspective and shadow. Thus they miss the real virtue of tapestry. For here be it laid down, once for all, that the qualities which determine excellence in tapestry, which distinguish a good tapestry from a bad tapestry, are not those in which it resembles painting, but those in which it is unlike painting.
The texture of tapestries is what gives them their peculiar excellence, and distinguishes them above all other textiles, just as other textiles are distinguished by texture qualities that raise them above wood and stone and brick and plaster and porcelain and paint and the metals. In which connection it is interesting to note that the word, as well as the quality, is primarily associated with textiles, texture being Latin for weave.
Not that I would deny picture interest to tapestries. Indeed, they possess it to a marked degree. This quality they do share with photographs and paintings.
But they also share with Oriental rugs the texture interest that has exalted the fame of Oriental looms during the past twenty years, making them the subject of books and magazine articles galore. And Gothic and Renaissance tapestries, with their coarse, horizontal ribs and long and slender vertical hatchings, possess texture interest to an even greater degree than rugs.
Plate no. 27. A Flemish Banquet Scene. Late Gothic tapestry in the Musèe des Arts Dècoratifs. Technically this is one of the most excellent tapestries in existence. The hatchings are pronounced, and line contrast has been employed with the utmost skill and freedom to produce a picture that tells the story quickly and easily.
In other words, tapestry has a more interesting texture than any other material in the world, and one capable of expressing more in the hands of the weaver who understands.