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.
In No. 4, the Triumph of Cupid, the central figure high upon a pedestal that rises from an altar red with curling flames, is the winged and blindfolded God of Love (cupido). He is in the act of loosing an arrow from his bow. In the foreground a procession of famous men and women, whom Cupid attacked with his darts, headed by Julius Caesar (iulius cesar). Beside him, Cleopatra (cleop). Behind him, Bathsheba (bersabea), Solomon (so-omon), Helen (helena), Brutus (brutus). Caesar carries a sword upraised in his right hand, and the imperial globe with cross in his left. Those personages strongly resemble the Olympic deities in No. 3, and it is probable that nos. 3 and 4 were woven as part of the same set. Interesting to compare with them are the Triumphs in the Imperial Austrian Collection and at Hampton Court.
Plate no. 399. Hercules Killing the Dragon that guards the Hesperides, a Renaissance tapestry in the Imperial Austrian Collection. One of a set of 9 picturing the Story of Hercules. Three are signed with the Audenarde mark and all with what is probably the monogram of Michel Van Orley.
No. 5 is earlier in style than the others. The columns of the royal pavilion and the curved railing in front of it are jewelled like the columns in the Mazarin and many other Gothic tapestries. The central figures of the tapestry are a king and a queen seated on a throne at the entrance of the royal pavilion. Both carry sceptres, he in his right hand, she in her left hand. She with uplifted right hand appears to favour the suit of suppliants below them. He by the position of his left hand appears to deny it. The curtains of the pavilion behind them are draped back, and courtiers crowd forward eager to see and hear. The suppliants below them consist of one aged man and three ladies. Below them are also courtiers and visitors, six on the left, five on the right. The upper corners of the tapestry picture other scenes of the same story. On the left the aged man with hands tied is being brought in by two constables. A lady stands by in helpless distress, hands clasped in suppliance. On the right, a lady kneeling presents a flower to a child sitting on the lap of his mother, who is seated in a chair with high figured flat back. On one side of the chair a lady, on the other a nurse. The story may be Biblical and may be Romantic. I am inclined to think the latter, and to interpret the three scenes as meaning the Arrest, the Queen's Intercession, the Expression of Thanks. The grouping of the third scene is apparently copied from a Madonna group in which
The Roman Colosseum
Plate no. 401. The Roman Colosseum in Action. Late Renaissance tapestry at the Metropolitan Museum, signed with the Brussels mark and the monogram of W. S., perhaps Willem Segers. The Colosseum is pictured incorrectly, apparently by an artist who worked from an inaccurate XVI century drawing. The mounted Emperor in the foreground is Titus. The huge foot in the lower right corner of the panel is that of the Colossus from which the Colosseum got its name. The border is particularly interesting with birds above, fish below, and beasts of the forest on right and left (See chapter XVI (Tapestries At The Metropolitan Museum).)
Saint Barbara (or Saint Anne) presents a flower to the child Christ. (Compare pages 262 and 313 of volume II of Reinach's Repertoire de Peintures du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance.)
Unusually interesting is the border of the Late Renaissance tapestry in room F6 of the Metropolitan Museum (See plate no. 401). It is simply alive with animals - fish below and birds above, with deer and goats and unicorns and foxes in the side borders. The picture panel inside is lighted from above on the left, as is shown by the shadow lines on the inside of the left and upper borders. It is crowded with details, the main feature being a Roman amphitheatre (the Colosseum) in action. In the ring a bear crushes one dog and is worried by two others. Also two bull-fights are in progress and there is a bustle of horsemen and footmen. The back of the amphitheatre is cut away to give a view of the interior and of beyond where stretch wooded hills and castles, with a narrow line of sky above. The foreground is crowded with large personages, some on foot and some mounted. The central figure is the Emperor Titus on horseback. Two attendants lead a lion fearlessly. A dog barks fretfully. In the right corner the broken-off foot of a Colossus statue shows Romulus and Remus and the wolf nurse in low relief. The costumes are Roman, but the figures are well clothed. The tapestry is signed with the monogram of W. S. - perhaps Willem Segers of Brussels - on the right-hand selvage near the bottom (See plate no. 401).
Plate no. 403. Two Scenes from the Story of Esther, a tapestry in the Hoentschel Collection, lent to the Metropolitan Museum by Mr. Morgan. One the left, in the upper corner, Esther (hester) seeking admission; below, Esther kneeling before Ahasuerus (Xerxes) crowned and with sceptre, who listens favorably to her petition. On the right, the banquet given by Esther to Ahasuerus, which it is interesting to compare with the Esther and Ahasuerus scenes in the Mazarin tapestry. The Latin captions below tell the story of how Hic Rumor Execrabibilis Revelatur. Sed Regina Mesta Dolens Ac Humilis . Doli Fuit Medecina "this awful rumor is revealed, but the queen sad, grieving and humble was medicine for the guile".
Especially interesting and well worth reproducing on the tapestry looms of to-day, for the decoration of church or home, are the two wide but not deep Gothic tapestries in the Hoentschel Collection (each 5 feet 2 by 12 feet 4) picturing, one the Slaughter of the Innocents, the other Christ in the Temple and the Marriage of Cana. These tapestries represent the art at its best. But they were not expensive to weave, in the XV century or now.