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 principal Flemish cities famous for tapestry weaving were Arras, Brussels, Tournai, Bruges, Enghien, Oudenarde, Middlebourg, Lille, Antwerp, Delft. Of these Arras and Lille are now in France, Delft in Holland, the others in Belgium. Romantic as is the history of these Flemish cities, and necessary as a knowledge of it is to those who would know Flemish tapestries, the changes in sovereignty were so frequent as to be very confusing, and rather hard reading. Consequently I have introduced, in small type, a brief resumè with dates that will be found invaluable for reference by those who at any time want questions answered about Flemish, Burgundian, Philip the Good, Charles the Bold, Mary of Burgundy, the Emperor Maximilian, Philip the Handsome, the Emperor Charles V, the Emperor Ferdinand I, Margaret of Austria, Mary of Hungary, the Spanish King Philip II, Margaret of Parma, the Archdukes of the Netherlands Isabel and Albert, the Spanish Netherlands, the Austrian Netherlands.
During the first three-quarters of the Gothic XV century, the terms Flemish and Burgundian are synonymous as far as tapestry is concerned. For the Duke of Burgundy acquired, in addition to the French Duchy of Burgundy, the provinces of Flanders and Artois through his wife in 1384, while his grandson Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy from 1419 to 1467, added province after province of the Netherlands - Namur in 1427, Holland, Zeeland, Hainault, Friesland in 1428; Brabant and Limburg in 1430. He also acquired the duchy of Luxemburg by purchase in 1443. In power he was superior to the King of France, and met on equal terms with the Emperor and the King of England. His court was the most brilliant and polite in Europe. For him were painted the finest paintings, illuminated the most beautiful manuscripts, and woven the richest tapestries. France lay prostrate under English control after the battle of Agincourt, in 1415, and the Treaty of Troyes and the marriage of the English King Henry V to Catherine, daughter of the French King Charles VI, in 1420, until Joan of Arc raised the siege of Orleans in 1429 and started Charles VII of France on the road back to power. In the XIV century, Paris had been an important centre of tapestry-weaving. In the XV century the industry appears to have been confined principally to the Flemish cities and to the cities in Italy and elsewhere that imported Flemish weavers. (See Italian Looms in chapter VII (Other Looms. American, Italian, German, Spanish, Russian).) The power of Philip the Good was inherited by his son Charles the Bold (1467-1477), who added Liége and Gelderland to the Burgundian dominions, but was interrupted in his triumphal course by successive defeats at the hands of the Swiss in the battles of Granson, March 2, 1476; Morat, June 22, 1476; Nancy, January 5, 1477. At Nancy, Charles himself was among the slain, leaving his only daughter Mary of Burgundy sole heiress to all his possessions. Louis XI of France claimed the reversion of the French fiefs and seized Burgundy, Franche Comté, and Artois. But the Netherlands would have none of him, and supported Mary, whose marriage to Archduke Maximilian of Austria introduced the long period of Hapsburg rule. When Maximilian was elected Emperor, in 1494, he handed over the Netherlands to his son
Plate no. 101. Ahab and Jehosaphat. Renaissance tapestry 3.40 metres by 4.72. Sold at the Somzée sale in 1901 for only $1120. Bears the Brussels mark and the maker's monogram. Zedekiah the false prophet uttering his prophecy. Behind him Micaiah the true prophet silently protests with left hand uplifted. Ahab king of Israel and Jehosaphat king of Judah seated on their thrones. As described by the Latin inscription.
Sederunt . Reges . Unusquisque . IN . Solio . Suo . Vestiti. Cultu . Regio Et In Conspectu. Eorum. Prophetabant. Universi. Prophete.
Philip the Handsome, whose marriage to Joanna (Jeanne) of Aragon ultimately brought Aragon and Castile under the sovereignty of his son Charles, whose election as Emperor Charles V, in 1519, on the death of his grandfather Maximilian, concentrated in his hands more authority than had been possessed by any ruler since Charlemagne.
When Charles's father died in 1506, his widowed aunt, Margaret of Austria, was appointed by Maximilian to act as governor-general of the Netherlands. After Charles assumed the government, at the age of 15 (in 1515), she continued to act for him, and was successful in securing and retaining the loyalty of all Netherlanders. After the death of Margaret, in 1530, Charles appointed his widowed sister, Mary of Hungary, to the regency. So much of the history of the Netherlands is it necessary to know in order to understand the term Burgundian, as applied to XV century tapestries, and also to understand how the richest collection of Renaissance tapestries in the world came to be in Spain.
When Charles abdicated, in 1555, he was succeeded in Spain and the Netherlands by his son Philip II, but the imperial power went to Charles's brother Ferdinand I, who was already Archduke of Austria and King of Hungary. Philip was a thorough Spaniard who did not like the Netherlands, and in 1559 sailed for Spain, leaving as regent Margaret of Parma, a natural daughter of Charles V. During the religious and anti-Spanish wars that ensued, the French Catholic South became alienated from the Dutch Protestant North. The latter is now the Kingdom of Holland, the former the Kingdom of Belgium (since 1830).
In 1598 Philip appointed his eldest daughter Isabel and her husband Albert "the archdukes" of the Netherlands, but over the northern or Dutch Netherlands (the United Provinces) they were never able to exercise authority. Under their rule, tapestry weaving - among other industries of the Southern Netherlands that had been interrupted by the long struggle against Spain - began to revive but never regained its ancient importance. On the death of Isabel, in 1633, the Southern Netherlands reverted to Spain and were known as the Spanish Netherlands until 1713, when they passed under the control of the Emperor Charles VI and until the French Revolution were known as the Austrian Netherlands.
Plate no. 103. Apollo and the Muses, an XVIII century tapestry in the Swedish Royal collection, signed with the Brussels mark and F. V. D. BORGHT, and purchased in Brussels in 1745. It is especially interesting because evidently a simplified form of the tapestry in the Stuart Collection at the New York Public Library, which is wrongly described in the guide to the collection as a Gobelin tapestry, 13 1/2 x 21 1/2 feet, purchased in 1881, but which is signed in the bottom selvage with the Brussels mark and I. DEVOS (Judocus De Vos), who flourished in Brussels at the beginning of the XVIII century and wove several sets in the Imperial Austrian Collection; as well as the Victories of Marlborough, at Blenheim. The Public Library tapestry has an organ on the left, and on the right the Olympian gods banqueting. The border is a woven gilt frame, typically French as indeed is the whole tapestry that might easily be mistaken for a Louis XIV Gobelin, even by the most expert.