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No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VA… Read more THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN (LOTS 106 - 108) The following two tapestries are a rare surviving pair of game-park tapestries centered on a griffin and form part of a group known as Pugnae Ferarum, which depict combats between animals.


Woven in wools, depicting various fantastical beasts, including a winged griffin gripping its prey, wild deers and rabbits in a wooded landscape with huntsmen in the background, within a fruiting foliate border decorated with birds, and a trellis and scroll outer border, signed on lower left corner 'CIERCU RIUS', areas of restoration and reweaving, including the bottom corners of the border
9 ft. 9 in. x 13 ft. 8 in. (298 cm. x 417 cm.)
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Lot Essay

Pugnae ferarum are sometimes believed to incorporate allegorical meanings and a Christian morality. The overall scheme may be that described at the beginning of the 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. However, it is easy to overextend this interpretation as much of the imagery is probably purely for the pleasure of discovering nature. (M. Roethlisberger, 'La Tenture de la Licorne dans la Collection Borromée', Oud Holland, vol. 82, part 3, 1967, pp. 107 - 108).

Possibly the most celebrated of this 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). A further, highly important group of pugnae ferarum tapestries belongs to prince Borromeo and decorates his palace at Isola Bella (Roethlisberger, idem., pp. 85 - 115). The Isola Bella tapestries are attributed to Willem Tons of Brussels by Roethlisberger and are believed to date from circa 1565. M. Hennel-Bernasikowa, who researched the Cracow tapestries, on the other hand has identified Pieter Coecke van Aelst of Antwerp as its designer.

The coloration of the tapestry as well as its borders are particularly comparable to game-park tapestries that have more recently been attributed to Audenarde. The combination of pugnae ferarum with hunting scenes in the background as well as the dense placement of the animals is very similar to two examples illustrated in I. De Meûter, M. Vanwelden, Tapisseries d'Audenarde, Tielt, 1999, pp. 140 - 141.
According to Roethlisberger there are very few literary references to Willem Tons. Van Mander mentions 'before our times there was in Brussels a good master named Willem Tons who excelled in the painting of tapestry models. He introduced many types of trees, plants, animals, birds, eagles, etc, all very well painted from nature'. The next mention is by Felbien in his Entretiens sur la vie des peintres of 1685 specifying 'one named Tons, great landscape painter, who worked on the Maximilian's Hunts' and then again in 1724 in Sauval's antiquités de Paris that praises 'le plus grand paysagiste qui ait jamais existé'.

M. Hennel-Bernaskiowa has found a drawing in the British Museum that is attributed to the workshop of Pieter Coecke van Aelst (d. 1550) and that depicts very similar animals in a forest, including the famous Dürer rhinoceros and the elephant, to support her argument (M. Ferrero Viale, 'Quelques nouvelles données sur les tapisseries de l'Isola Bella', L'Art brabançon au milieu du XVIe siècle et les tapisseries du château de Wawel à Cracovie, Brussels, 1974, p. 109). Pieter Coecke van Aelst is believed to have studied under Bernard van Orley. He traveled to Italy in 1527 and was sent to Constantinople by the Dermoyen firm in 1533, an experience that resonates in many of his works as they often display Ottoman costumes. Three tapestry series have been firmly attributed to him, The Life of St. Paul, The Life of Joshua and The Seven Deadly Sins, and many bear resemblance to his style but cannot be ascribed to him with certainty.

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