WEAVER AND PROVENANCE (LOTS 212 AND 213)
The two tapestries are both signed and bear the monogram of Hendrick van der Cammen (1603 - 1676) of Enghien. The borders as well as the overall concept of the subject suggest that the tapestries were woven in the second quarter 17th century. Indeed, documents in Enghien mention van der Cammen supplying a set of eight tapestry of this type to duc Philip-François de Ligne, 1st Duke of Arenberg and 7th Duke of Aarschot and Croy (1625-1674) in 1644 as a present by the city of Enghien and surrounding towns in celebration of his elevation to Duke by Emperor Ferdinand III. The tapestries cost over 3,000 pounds but because of the heavy damages from the wars, the towns were only able to raise 1,000 pounds and the rest was paid by the Duke himself.
Possibly the most celebrated of the pugnae ferarum group of tapestries are the 44 Brussels panels at Wawel Castle in Cracow (J. Szablowski, ed., The Flemish Tapestries at Wawel Castle in Cracow, Antwerp, 1972, pp. 191 - 286). Jan van Tieghem is believed to have woven them in the 1550s or 1560s.
The rise in interest in such animal-tapestries during the period may originate in the great geographical discoveries and their accounts that became more widely known at the time. The menageries that existed at the royal and princely courts likely formed the basis for the artist that painted these designs. Many scenes are based on ideas from the research and scientific conclusions drawn by learned men from antiquity, such as Aristotle and Pliny, who mixed both reality with fiction. Towards the middle of the 16th Century scientists, such as the Swiss Conrad Gesner, started to publish new findings. These new publications further inspired the popular interest in nature and the subsequent rise in tapestries dealing with this subject matter (idem pp. 191 - 286).
Pugnae ferarum are sometimes believed to incorporate allegorical meanings and a Christian morality. The overall scheme may be that described at the beginning of Genesis. The animals and plants are freely mixed from every part of the Earth, such as can be imagined after the Great Flood. The battling animals represent the old forces, while man with the divine grace empowering him, represents the new order. The animals are taken from Physiologus' tradition and its moral lessons, but also from Pliny's Natural History, the medieval bestiaries and others. Even the plants may be interpreted into the smallest details as part of this moral lesson. However, it is easy to overextend this interpretation as much of the imagery is probably purely for the pleasure of discovering nature. (M. Röthlisberger, 'La Tenture de la Licorne dans la Collection Borromée', Oud Holland, vol. 82, part 3, 1967, pp. 107 - 108)
PLACE OF MANUFACTURE AND WEAVER
Although few in overall number, tapestries of this type were manufactured in many weaving centres. A highly important group of pugnae ferarum tapestries belong to prince Borromeo and decorate his palace at Isola Bella (Röthlisberger, op. cit., pp. 85 - 115). The Isola Bella tapestries are attributed to Willem Tons of Brussels by Röthlisberger and are believed to date from circa 1565.
OTHER KNOWN TAPESTRIES FROM THIS SET
W.G. Thomson describes in his A Description of the Enghien Tapestries in the Collection of Messrs. Lenygon at 31 Old Burlington Street, London, circa 1909 the offered two tapestries as part of a set of five with Lenygon. The other three panels are now in museums: A tapestry panel depicting a wild cat combating a donkey, a fox killing a cockerel, and a lion attacking a sheep and a deer, survive in the Château-Musée, Gaasbeek, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Philadelphia Museum of Art, respectively, all also signed by van der Cammen (G. Delmarcel, Tapisseries anciennes d'Enghien, Mons, 1980, cats. 24 - 26, pp. 56 - 61).