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.
Even more interesting from the human and daily life point of view are five Late Gothic fragments in a New York private collection, which picture sheep-shearing scenes below and hunting scenes above, with castles and a narrow line of sky in the background. In two of the shepherd scenes are bagpipes, and in one six shepherds and shepherdesses are forming a ring to dance. In one a dog holds a struggling duck in his mouth. In another a shepherdess is in the act of shearing a struggling sheep, while a fool stands by with jester's staff and a shepherd pours wine into a flat cup. The shepherd scenes are grounded with Gothic floriation below and trees above. There are wattled fences and a fold for the sheep. All of the shepherds and shepherdesses carry clipping shears and other tools attached at the waist. In the hunting scenes there are gentlemen and ladies on horseback, some mounted double, hunting-dogs and falcons. A river, with boats and geese, adds reality.
To this set of fragments undoubtedly belongs the Sheep Shearing fragment, 1.65 metres by 2.24 in the Brussels Museum, illustrated on plate no. 55, and perhaps the Hunt with Falcon fragment in the Cluny Museum illustrated on page 77 of Guiffrey Seizieme. Similar in treatment and style is the Wood Cutters in the Musée des Arts Decoratifs.
But of all hunting tapestries none surpass in importance and interest the set of four dating from the middle of the XV century and lent by the Duke of Devonshire to the Victoria and Albert Museum. One of them is illustrated on plate no. 57. They were discovered some years ago in fragments in Hardwicke Hall, having been cut up for use as draperies. They were in bad condition. They were restored at South Kensington under the direction of Sir C. Purdon Clarke, then director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and afterwards director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. One of the four pieces is 14 feet by 37. The others are slightly smaller. The material is wool only, and the weave is about 15 ribs to the inch. In making the restorations the colours that on the front had faded were copied from the still vivid back, so that the tapestries now display all their ancient and original wealth of hue, or most of it.
Plate no. 55. Sheep Shearing, a fascinating Gothic fragment 1.65 metres by 2.24 in the Brussels Museum, but even more interesting from the human and daily life point of view are five Late Gothic fragments in a New York private collection, which picture sheep shearing scenes below and hunting scenes above, with castles and a narrow line of sky in the background.
Significant towards the attribution of the tapestries are two groupings, one the meeting of two lovers on horseback, the other the same two lovers riding off on one horse after betrothal or marriage. As the trappings of the lady's horse are marked with the letter M, and as her gown is figured with marguerites, Thomson concludes that she is Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI of England.
The description of one of the tapestries I take from Thomson who illustrates two of them in colour. In it, the horizon is very high, with sea and ships in the distance. One of the ships has a curious yellow flag bearing a red cross. From the sea comes a large rowboat up the river in the middle of the tapestry. Well up the river is a castle with two drawbridges. The castle has many towers and is evidently of huge size, but is represented on such a small scale as to occupy actually no more space than one of the personages beside it. In the foreground the river branches to right and left. On the left a richly attired gentleman drives a spear into an otter. Facing this gentleman another, who with his trumpet sounds "mort" for the otter that hangs dead from one of the prongs of his spear, and at which half a dozen dogs look up longingly. In the middle foreground, boys robbing a swan's nest of the young, and fiercely attacked by the parent swans. On the right an exciting bear hunt. The bear has a man down, whose cimeter has run him through and whose red-stockinged legs encircle him. The bear's troubles are aggravated by a mounted Saracen who has already pierced him with one lance. Near by, another Saracen is pulling one of the cubs out of a cave, while on the extreme right another cub that has got away looks back sorrowfully. Elsewhere other hunters in action, richly gowned ladies and gentlemen, and three other miniature castles.
Plate no. 57. One of the four famous Hardwicke Hall XV century Hunting Tapestries lent by the Duke of Devonshire to the Victoria and Albert Museum (See chapter II (Gothic Tapestries)).
Another interesting type of Gothic tapestry pictures battles and historical events on huge panels without borders. One of these is the capture of Jerusalem by Titus at the Metropolitan Museum (See plates nos. 410, 411). It is 13 feet 9 by 28 feet 3. Among those that picture scenes from the Trojan War are the Chevalier Bayard tapestry illustrated in colour in Jabinal Tapisseries (See plate no. 181), now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Aulhac tapestries also illustrated by Jubinal and now in the Courthouse of Issoire. In the Berne Historical Museum are several tapestries said to be spoils won by the Swiss victories over Charles the Bold at Granson and Morat (See chapter IV (Flemish And Burgundian Looms)). Four of them picture eight scenes with captions in French from the Story of Caesar. They are said to have belonged to Louis of Luxembourg Count of Saint Pol, who was put to death as a traitor in Paris in 1475. Louis XI and Charles the Bold divided his property, the latter getting among other things these Caesar tapestries and giving them to Guillaume de la Beaume whose arms they still bear. Other large tapestries similar in style are the two Clovis tapestries at the Cathedral of Reims, and the Roland at Roncevaux in the Brussels Museum (See plate no. 61). The former are part of a set that was used to decorate one of the halls on the occasion of the marriage of Charles the Bold to his third wife, Margaret of York in 1468. Through Charles' daughter, Mary of Burgundy (See chapter IV), it descended to the Emperor Charles V in whose baggage it was found after the raising of the siege of Metz. Allotted as booty to Duke Francois de Guise, it was finally presented to the Cathedral by Charles de Guise Cardinal of Lorraine. Then there were six pieces. By 1840 there were only three. Since 1840 one more has disappeared. The first of the two surviving pieces pictures the Coronation of Clovis and the Capture of Soissons; the second the foundation of the churches Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the Victory over Gondebaut, and the Story of the Wonderful Stag. The combatants wear Burgundian armour of the middle of the XV century, and M. Quicherat thinks Clovis has the features of Charles VII.