• 500 Years Decorative Arts Euro auction at Christies

    Sale 2305

    500 Years Decorative Arts Europe Including Oriental Carpets

    20 April 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 100

    A FLEMISH EXOTIC TAPESTRY

    CIRCA 1504-1522, PROBABLY TOURNAI

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A FLEMISH EXOTIC TAPESTRY
    CIRCA 1504-1522, PROBABLY TOURNAI
    DEPICTING THE LANDING AT CALCUTTA FROM THE STORY OF THE PORTUGUESE, DEPICTING THE DISEMBARKMENT OF A HORSE WITH DROMEDARIES IN A BOAT, REDUCED IN WIDTH AND LACKING BORDERS ON THREE SIDES, WITH LATER GREEN GUARD BORDERS, AREAS OF RE-WEAVING
    11 FT. 8½ IN. (357 CM.) HIGH, 8 FT. 6¾ IN. (260 CM.)


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    THIS TAPESTRY FORMS THE RIGHT SECTION OF A LARGER COMPOSITION DEPICTING FURTHER SHIPS WITH FIGURES UNLOADING OSTRICHES AND OTHER ANIMALS AND WITH FURTHER ROYAL FIGURES STANDING BEFORE AN ARCHITECTURAL SETTING. THIS SCENE IS ONE OF FOUR OR POSSIBLY SIX TAPESTRIES FORMING A SERIES VARIOUSLY KNOWN AS THE STORY OF CALCUTTA, PORTUGUESE OR INDIES, OR THE STORY OF WILD MEN AND BEASTS, WHILE THIS SCENE IS KNOWN AS LANDING AT CALCUTTA OR EMBARKING EXOTIC ANIMALS. THE EXACT EXTENT OF THE SERIES HAS NOT BEEN DETERMINED AND IT SEEMS AS IF ONE SCENE, SHOWING A CARAVAN OF GIRAFFES, ELEPHANTS AND DROMEDARIES, MAY VARIOUSLY BE CONSIDERED ONE TAPESTRY OR SEVERAL.

    THE SUBJECT OF THE SERIES REFLECTS THE CONTEMPORARY FASCINATION WITH THE EXPLORATION OF THE NEW WORLD FROM WHICH CURIOUS ANIMALS AND OBJECTS WERE BROUGHT BACK. INDEED IN 1503, INDIAN SPICES ARRIVED IN ANTWERP VIA LISBON, INDICATING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF PORTUGUESE BRANCHES IN THE LOW COUNTRIES. THESE DISCOVERIES AWAKENED THE INTEREST IN THE EXOTIC, AND WEALTHY PATRONS WERE KEEN TO SHOW THEIR INVOLVEMENT AND KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE FOREIGN LANDS. IT HAS VARIOUSLY BEEN SUGGESTED THAT CERTAIN FIGURES REPRESENT VASCO DA GAMA, BUT NONE OF THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS SUGGEST SUCH A DIRECT HISTORICAL CONNECTION. TAPESTRIES WERE THE IDEAL VISUAL MEDIUM TO PROCLAIM POWER AND WEALTH TO PEERS AS WELL AS SUBORDINATES. FEW TAPESTRIES OF SUCH EXOTIC SUBJECTS REMAIN FROM THIS PERIOD ALTHOUGH EXOTIC THEMES ARE KNOWN AS EARLY AS 1416 WHEN THE DUC DE BERRY OWNED A HISTORY OF THE GREAT KHAN AND THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY OWNED A STORY OF MAHOMET.

    THE STORY OF CALCUTTA SERIES IS FIRST MENTIONED IN TOURNAI AS PART OF A DELIVERY TO PHILIP THE FAIR IN 1504 BY THE TAPESTRY MERCHANTS JEAN AND ANTOINE GRENIER, WHO APPEAR TO HAVE OWNED CARTOONS FOR THE SERIES. THEN IN 1513 WHEN THE ENGLISH INVADED TOURNAI, ARNOULD POISSONNIER, ANOTHER MERCHANT, IS RECORDED AS SELLING FIVE PANELS OF THIS SUBJECT TO TOBERY DE WYTFEL, A COUNCILOR OF KING HENRY VIII AND IN 1522 PIETER VAN AELST IS MENTIONED AS SUPPLYING A SET OF SIX TAPESTRIES TO EMPEROR CHARLES V. APPROXIMATELY 6 SETS ARE BELIEVED TO HAVE EXISTED, ONE OF WHICH IS ALSO RECORDED IN THE INVENTORIES OF CARDINAL WOLSEY IN 1522/23, ALTHOUGH THE SURVIVING 15 - 20 TAPESTRIES AND FRAGMENTS ARE VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO MATCH UP TO THE 16TH CENTURY RECORDS.

    RELATED TAPESTRIES
    A COMPLETE TAPESTRY OF THIS PARTICULAR SUBJECT IS RECORDED AT THE CHâTEAU DE BRéZé IN 1912. IT WAS PROBABLY THAT TAPESTRY WHICH WAS SOLD AT HôTEL DE DROUOT, PARIS, IN 1931, AND WHICH IS NOW AT THE BANCO NACIONAL ULTRAMARIONO IN LISBON. A VERSION OF THE CARAVAN OF GIRAFFES IS AT THE NATIONALMUSEUM, STOCKHOLM WHILE THE MOST COMPLETE SURVIVING SET IS AT THE MUSEU DO CARAMULO IN CARAMULO, PORTUGAL. MOST SETS OF THIS SERIES THAT RETAIN BORDERS HAVE A SIMPLE BORDER WITH FLOWERS AND THE TOP BORDER WITH LAMBREQUINS OF ACANTHUS LEAVES, POMOGRANATES AND BELLS, AS VISIBLE ON THIS TAPESTRY. THE SAME BORDER CAN ALSO BE FOUND ON OTHER SETS ATTRIBUTED TO TOURNAI SUCH AS THE STORY OF HERCULES AND HISTORY OF THE GYPSIES.

    (J.P. ASSELBERGHS, LA TAPISSERIE TOURNAISIENNE AU XVIE SIèCLE, TOURNAI, 1968, PP. 12-16; G. WINGFIELD DIGBY, VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM, THE TAPESTRY COLLECTION, MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE, LONDON, 1980, PP. 30-32; G. DELMARCEL, FLEMISH TAPESTRY, TIELT, 1999, PP. 164-165).

    Provenance

    WITH FRENCH & CO.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION (LOT 100)