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A BRUSSELS HISTORICAL TAPESTRY
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A BRUSSELS HISTORICAL TAPESTRY

LATE 16TH CENTURY, THE DESIGN ATTRIBUTED TO NICOLAS VAN ORLEY, CIRCA 1560-1580, POSSIBLY BY JOOST VAN HERSEELE

Details
A BRUSSELS HISTORICAL TAPESTRY
LATE 16TH CENTURY, THE DESIGN ATTRIBUTED TO NICOLAS VAN ORLEY, CIRCA 1560-1580, POSSIBLY BY JOOST VAN HERSEELE
Woven in wools and silks, depicting the Rape of the Sabines from the History of Rome, with Roman soldiers and Sabine women in the foreground and a city in the background, within an elaborate scrolling foliate and fruiting border decorated with grotesques and vases and with flower-head decorated red inner and outer slips, possibly reduced in size, lacking blue guard borders, minor losses, areas of restoration and reweaving
5 ft. 7 in. x 8 ft. 5 in. (169 cm. x 255 cm.)
Provenance
Lionel Harris.
With French & Co, New York, 1928 - 1936.
Arthur L. Erlaugh.
Anonymous sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 4 January 1951, lot 187.
Re-purchased by French & Co, New York (until 1958).
S.L. Esteves Fernandez.
Literature
E. Standen, 'Romans and Sabines: A Sixteenth-Century Set of Flemish Tapestries', Metropolitan Museum Journal, 1974, p. 214.
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Lot Essay

This tapestry forms part of a series that must have comprised at least five panels. Two with differing borders and depicting The Romans with Their Sabine Wives and The Sabine Women stop fighting between the Romans and the Sabines are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The battle panel is marked with a monogram 'NvO' on a shield in a tree, which Edith Standen convincingly argues to be that of Nicolas van Orley ('Romans and Sabines: A Sixteenth-Century Set of Flemish Tapestries', Metropolitan Museum Journal, 1974). Nicolas van Orley's father was Gomar, who was the brother of the famous Bernard van Orley (d. 1541). The dynasty was prolific in designing tapestries in Brussels until the 1560s when religious persecution broke up the family. Nicolas fled to Stuttgart in 1566 and supplied cartoons to Jacob van Carmes for the Duke of Württemberg. He continued to Strasbourg in 1570 and died between 1586 - 1591.

Interestingly that tapestry is also signed with the initials 'IVH', which Standen believes to be that of Joost van Herzeele, while they also bear coat-of-arms that are almost certainly those of Pope Sixtus V (d. 1590), who became cardinal in 1570. The arms post-date the elevation to cardinal as they bear insignias that he only adopted after that date. The MET tapestries thus must have been designed before 1566 when Nicolas emigrated to Stuttgart and would have been woven after 1570 when the coat-of-arms are adjusted.

Standen believed that the series may only have included four panels, the fourth one being The Romans Admiring the Sabine Maidens. However, other panels of the set that include The Rape of the Sabines are almost certainly The Sabine Women stop fighting between the Romans and the Sabines, which was purchased by French & Co from the Spanish Art Galleries and sold to Maurice Harris in 1937. Also of identical height and not recorded by Standen is The Battle between the Romans and the Sabines which was also in the Lionel Harris collection as the offered lot, then with French & Co and which was finally sold to the Charles Cudlip Association in 1966.

(E. Standen, 'Romans and Sabines: A Sixteenth-Century Set of Flemish Tapestries', Metropolitan Museum Journal, 1974).
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