‘I do love buying tapestries. They are so out of fashion, and I’m not sure why that is — perhaps because they are impractical for most people. Tapestries were by definition expensive items when they were made. At least a year’s work went into them. But now they are excellent value.
‘This one depicts a scene from the life of Alexander the Great. I am very keen on him, but I think he has slightly disappeared from our account of history. We have all forgotten about classical times: when did you last have a conversation about Alexander? Yet every tapestry-maker was interested in him, because he is an example of supreme success.
In the end I paid £7,500. When you think what it is, and the condition it’s in, that’s very cheap
‘And visually his life has everything: battles, drums and trumpets, armies and armour. I have no idea what event in Alexander’s life is portrayed here, perhaps nothing specific at all. But it is in effect a snapshot of a military campaign, like a war photograph. Clearly a formal surrender is taking place. There is Alexander, centre right, accepting the deeds to the captured city behind. The darker-skinned figures in blue helmets are the defeated enemy; the mounted men in their plumed headgear are Alexander’s lieutenants.
‘I always look at auction catalogues, but I never attend in person. I get other people to do it for me, because I know I would buy too much. I would be scooping up all sorts of things I don’t need — actually, I do that anyway. The lower estimate for this one was £5,000, and in the end I paid £7,500. When you think what it is, and the condition it’s in, that’s very cheap. You can’t buy a good picture or a drawing for that, certainly nothing big.
‘I like the iconography of the piece. The border is quite modest; sometimes that’s the most ornate part. All the soldiers’ feet are well rendered, the horses’ hooves too. And the dapple on the rump of the foremost horse is lovely. The brown horse on the right is throwing a very knowing glance. They are always in the know, the horses.’