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A LATE GOTHIC TOURNAI BIBLICAL TAPESTRY, in the manner of Bernard van Orley, early 16th Century

A LATE GOTHIC TOURNAI BIBLICAL TAPESTRY, in the manner of Bernard van Orley, early 16th Century

Woven in wools and silks, depicting the Presentation in the Temple, the infant Christ cradled by Simeon, who places him on a flower-strewn altar, while the Virgin, her arms crossed in piety, and Joseph holding a brace of doves in his left hand, emblematic of the Purification of Mary, look on, with candle-bearing attendants and a man reading a studded book, wearing a fur-trimmed robe, beyond the altar standing on a circular stepped spreading plinth and tiled floor, the arcaded architecural background with two aisles flanking a central barrel-vaulted nave with strapwork and floral trellis and columns headed by winged masks and surmounted by a winged putto-supported cartouche, in an extensive wooded landscape with Joseph leading the Virgin and Child on an ass with a herm beyond, within a scrolling and foliate border and red outer slip, minor areas of re-weaing, the top and base slip later
117in. x 91in. (297cm. x 231cm.)
By descent, probably since the first half of the 19th Century

Lot Essay

The design relates to works by Bernard van Orley (d.1542), a member of a large family of painters, who designed tapestries and stained glass and specialised in portrait and history painting. He was appointed court painter for Marguerite, Regent of The Netherlands, in 1515, for Infante Marguerite in 1518 and for Mary of Hungary in 1532. Among the different tapestry series designed by him, Maximilian's Hunts, which were executed between 1521 and 1530, now in the Louvre, are possibly the most spectacular. This tapestry, of a religious nature and much more sombre, displays his interest in elaborate decorative schemes

The scene illustrated is from Luke 2:22-39 in the New Testament. It depicts the infant Christ being taken to the temple in Jerusalem to be 'consecrated to the Lord'. Mosaic law required that all firstborn living things be sacrificed to the Lord, but that children were redeemed by payment of 5 shekels. Simeon, a devout man who had been told that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah, is seen holding the infant Christ above the altar. To the right Joseph is holding a pair of doves to be sacrificed in the ceremony as 'Purification' of Mary. To the left of Mary is Anna, an aged prophetess, with her right hand raised and a finger pointing, the gesture of prophecy. In the background several figures carry long candles in reference to Candlemas, part of the 'Purification' feast

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