Sir William Johnston, the celebrated Scottish geographer, served as Lord provost of Edinburgh 1848-51.
THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES
Possibly the most influencial tapestry series ever conceived, the ten cartoons for the Acts of the Apostles series were first designed by Raphaël (d. 1520) between 1514 and 1516 for the Sistine Chapel. Pope Leo X (d. 1521), who was ordained in 1513, extensively patronised Raphaël and put him, amongst others, in charge of the production of tapestry cartoons including this series. When the cartoons were completed, an assistant of Raphaël accompanied the set to Antwerp to survey the production of the tapestries in Pieter van Aelst's (d. 1532) atelier. That tapestry set, woven in gold, silk and wool, was hung in time for Christmas 1519 and remains in the Vatican. According to Paris de Grassis, master of ceremonies of the papal chapel under Julius II and Leo X, the general opinion was that there was nothing more beautiful in the world.
The cartoons were the first large-scale proponents of the Italian High Renaissance to cross the Alps and fundamentally influenced the artistic development of tapestry design from the second quarter of the 16th century onwards. The cartoons, which by tradition could be kept by the workshop after completion of a tapestry, do not appear to have been rewoven during van Aelst's lifetime. The cartoons disappeared after van Aelst's death, but a number of Acts were produced by many weavers in Brussels, the first one already in 1533 for Francis I, King of France. The original designs were officially rediscovered by Rubens, who sold seven of them to Charles I of England in circa 1623. They remain today at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
The earliest surviving copies after the same cartoons are in the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua and were woven by Jan van Tieghem and two further unidentified weavers. They were woven after 1528, when the Brussels town mark of these tapestries became compulsory, but before 1557 when Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga's second testament, which mentions the set, was drawn up. Thereafter numerous series are known to have been woven throughout the Lowlands in the 16th and 17th centuries. When Charles I purchased the seven cartoons, he had them reproduced at Mortlake, with an additional cartoon designed in England. Over 100 sets of this series by all the different weaving centers have been identified.
(T. Campbell, Tapestry in the Renaissance, New York, 2002, pp. 187 - 203 and G. Delmarcel, Flemish Tapestry, Tielt, 1999, pp. 142 - 146)
The mark of the H entwined with M, previously ascribed to Hendrik Mattens, has recently been identified as that of Hans (Jan) Mattens (d. 1634). He appears to be the son of Cornelis Mattens (d. 1640), and received his privileges in 1613 and became the Keeper of the Seals of the craft in 1624. He co-worked with his father on several series, including The History of Troy, now in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, and the Acts of the Apostles at St. Paul, Zaragossa. Few complete series by Hans alone are recorded and include The Story of Zenobia by Jan Snellinck in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, The Story of Scipio at the Peabody School of Music, Baltimore, while individual panels include The Story of Hannibal and The Story of Cleopatra.
(D. Heinz, Europäische Tapisseriekunst des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, Vienna, 1995, p. 18)
We would like to thank Dr. Guy Delmarcel for his kind assistance with the cataloguing of this tapestry.