The arms are those of Germain impaling Berkeley, for Sir John Germain, Bt. (died 1718) and Elizabeth, his second wife, daughter of 2nd Earl of Berkeley. Sir John, created a baronet in 1698, inherited Drayton House through his first wife Mary, daughter of the Earl of Peterborough (died 1705). Lady Betty died in 1769.
Originally from a suite of four, these tapestries were commissioned by Lady Betty Germain when she refurbished the Chapel in 1725. In the 1724 inventory the chapel is described before the alterations, but a later hand has added '12 large Common Prayer Books in ye Upper Servants seats with ye same Arms as ye Hangings', although no hangings are listed. The latter Inventory was 'Look'd over in 1738', when these are described in room No. 82 The Chappel Gallery '4 pieces of Fine Tapestry hangings with Sr. John, and Lady Betty Germain's Armes, in a lossinge'. In the 1770 inventory, these are listed 'The Silk Tapestry Hangings of the Gallery'. It is therefore apparent that Lady Betty extended the Chapel by building the Gallery and the hangings were made for it. The remaining pair of Drayton panels were sold in 1928 and are now in the Rosenbach Foundation, Philadelphia.
The rarity of English armorial tapestries and the exceptional colours and conception of the Drayton panels preclude a definitive attribution. They fall outside the scope of Marillier's analysis of the two groups of Soho Arabesques while obviously sharing a number of common decorative themes. The first group is usually attributed to the workshop of Joshua Morris. Almost always centred by a vase of flowers, the design is much more luxuriant in feeling and the ground, usually dark, is very lavishly filled. Nonetheless the flower-filled hanging baskets find echoes in several panels, for example one sold in these Rooms, 12 March 1970, lot 155 and another, illustrated in Marillier, fig. 4a. Many of this group also have similar shell clasp angles, for instance the Clive set from Perrystone Court, two of which were subsequently in the collection of Mrs. John Rovensky and were sold in Parke-Bernet Galleries, 19 January 1957, lots 1017 and 1018. Another panel from this set is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (No. 1161-1901) (op. ci., fig. 3b) and there are further sets at Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire (formerly at Normanton Hall, Rutland) and Hagley Hall, Worcestershire.
Of the second group, often associated with the workshop of John Vanderbank and centered by a figure of Fame, the scrolling tendrils issuing from a mask base are particularly reminiscent. Among the best known examples of this genre are the panels in the Black and Yellow bedroom at Burghley House, Lincolnshire thought to have been commissioned by John, 5th Earl of Exeter (J. Lees-Milne, English Country Houses, Baroque, 1970, pl. 103).
The Drayton panels are perhaps closest in spirit to the group of Fame Arabesques conceived in a more rococo idiom, which represent a 1720's updating of a late seventeenth Century Bèrainesque designs. These are now thought to be from the workshop of Sarah and Moses Vanderbank, widow and son of John Vanderbank (died 1727). These include a panel in the Victoria and Albert Museum attributed to this atelier (T44-1980).
We are extremely grateful to Dr. Bruce Bailey, Archivist at Drayton, for his assistance.