This magnificent tapestry, depicting the 1702 victory of Archduke Joseph of Austria at Landau, is intriguingly made to fit into a series depicting The Victories of Duke Charles V of Lorraine against the Turks in the 1680s, woven for Leopold, Duke of Lorraine, between 1710 and 1718.
It uses the same borders and an overall design conforming to the Charles V series, but omits the coat-of-arms of Duke Leopold and his wife Elisabeth-Charlotte d'Orléans that adorns those tapestries. The Charles V series, consisting of 18 tapestries, became part of the Imperial Austrian collection and is recorded in the first surviving inventory of Imperial tapestries of 1880, but the offered lot is not mentioned. However, the use of the double-headed eagle in the top and bottom borders would indicate that it must have formed part of the Imperial collection at some point, possibly through the succession to the Imperial Title of Duke Leopold's son Francis Stephen in 1745, and that it was woven to complement the Charles V series woven in Nancy.
Joseph was born in 1678 to Archduke Leopold I of Austria and his third wife Eleanora, Countess Palatine, daughter of Philip William of Neuburg, Elector Palatine, and a cousin of Duke Leopold of Lorraine. He became King of Hungary in 1687 and King of the Romans in 1690. The only military service he ever saw was at the Battle of Landau, during the Wars of the Spanish Succession, when he fought alongside Louis William, Margrave of Baden, in 1702. He succeeded his father as Emperor in 1705 and died in 1711.
NANCY AND THE ORIGINS OF THE DESIGN
The first traces of tapestry weaving in Nancy date from the second half 16th century, however the quality improved dramatically when, in the 17th century, the Dukes of Lorraine started enticing weavers from major weaving centres to work for the court at Nancy. Interrupted by the 30-year war, weaving started again in the last years of the 17th century. The duchy, which changed hands during the 17th century, was finally awarded to the young Duke Leopold of Lorraine in the treaty of Riswyck in 1697. He married Elisabeth-Charlotte d'Orléans, daughter of Louis XIV, in 1698 and was deeply impressed by the tapestry collection of his father-in-law. It was Louis XIV who popularized the tradition of glorifying battle victories of the rulers in tapestries such as the Histoire du Roi set after Charles Le Brun, first woven at Gobelins in 1664, and the Conquêtes de Louis XIV woven after Jean-Baptiste Martin at Beauvais in the early 1690s. Other courts emulated these sets including Sweden, Denmark and Munich, while generals such as the Elector Max Emmanuel of Bavaria and the Margrave Louis of Baden each commissioned a series to commemorate their victory over the Turks at the Siege of Vienna in 1683; and the Duke of Marlborough had sets woven to commemorate The Wars of the Spanish Succession, followed by six of his generals and 13 princes and generals on the Continent. The young Duke of Lorraine had no personal war victories that he could celebrate in this fashion, so he decided to raise his own status by choosing his father's victories over the Turks before Vienna in the 1680s and thus creating The Victories of Charles V.
THE TAPESTRY WORKSHOPS AND DESIGNERS
Soon after Duke Leopold's arrival in Nancy in 1698, he established the local Charles Mité as tapissier de son hôtel. Initially confined to restoring tapestries, he wove a first tapestry after the designs of the Nancy painter Charles Herbel depicting the victories of Charles V in 1703 and presented it to Leopold. On this basis Leopold commissioned a set of 5 tapestries known as the Petit Tenture des Victoires de Charles V (H. Göbel, Die Wandteppiche und ihre Manufakturen in Frankreich Italien Spanien und Portugal, Leipzig, 1928, vol. II, pl. 348), which bear a certain local charm, but are not comparable to the works woven for the other rulers of Europe. Before this set was finished in 1710 it was decided to weave a grander series of this subject and Jean-Baptiste Durup was asked to provide designs to Mité. Upon Durup's early death in 1709 Jean-Baptiste Martin, known as Martin des Batailles for having designed the Beauvais series commemorating Louis XIV and the Swedish series of The Conquests of Charles XI of Sweden, was hired. He brought with him Jean Louis Guyon to execute the landscapes and views while he concentrated on the figures.
The existing workforce in the weaver's workshop had to be drastically expanded and the quality of their work had to be improved for the new Vicories of Charles V (Göble, op. Cit, pl. 349). Leopold and Mité hired at least 15 weavers many of whom from the Royal Gobelins workshops, including Jose Bacor probably the most skilled of the weavers in Nancy, and a co-weaver to establish another workshop in Lunéville, just outside Nancy in 1718. It took eight years to complete the weaving of this magnificent series which consisted of 18 tapestries. The design and workmanship is in no manner inferior to the works executed at Gobelins or Beauvais. The set cost Leopold 28,440 livres to Martin and approximately 150,000 livres to Mité. Martin returned to Paris soon after completion of the series in 1718, while Guyon remained at the Lorraine court.
Mité was a controversial figure and even Leopold largely ceased to order tapestries from him after the Charles V series. However, Bacor's workshop received various commissions from the duke but the collaboration broke apart within 3 years due to financial difficulties. Leopold, unable to let Bacor leave, gave him another opportunity by establishing an atelier in Malgrange, even further from Nancy to lower costs, in 1723. One of his first commissions was to weave two further panels depicting The Victories of Charles V, possibly to re-complete the set after a fire at Lunéville probably destroyed two tapestries from the set. The workshop finally closed in 1737.
Although there is no mention of the offered lot having been woven either in Nancy, Lunéville or Malgrange, the overall design as well as the borders, weave and colours leave very little doubt that this tapestry formed part of the aforementioned Lorraine workshops. Indeed Duke Leopold of Lorraine, would have had reason to thank the Holy Roman Emperor, his close friend and ally Joseph, for freeing his lands and for protecting him during the Wars of the Spanish Succession.
It is possible that Jose Bacor received a commission from Duke Leopold who died in 1729 or his successor Francis Stephen, to produce this tapestry as a gift or special commission while he was at Malgrange, where the official records are much more sketchy than while the Nancy workshop was operating. It may alternatively have been woven in the Nancy workshop of Mité and therefore to the designs of Charles Herbel, but probably after 1718, when he lost the favour of Leopold, as a special commission or an attempt to gain a commission from Austria.
(M. Antoine, Les Manufactures de Tapisserie des Ducs de Lorraine (1698 - 1737), Nancy 1965).