THE ART OF WAR TAPESTRIES
It was under Louis XIV that tapestry series depicting military triumphs flourished as a means of glorifying a ruler's status. Inspired by such magnificient earlier series as the mid-16th Century Battle of Pavia, designed by Bernard van Orley and made for Charles V of Spain, Louis XIV's tapestries were woven at the Royal Gobelins and Beauvais manufactories. Thus, while Gobelins produced the Histoire du Roi series in 1665 to the designs of Charles Le Brun and Adam van der Meulen, a further military series known as Les Conquêtes de Louis le Grand were woven at Beauvais also to Meulen's designs. Both series were woven with a high percentage of silk and gold-thread by the best weavers of the period to emphasize the greatness of the King.
The Art of War series was initially woven for three rulers, all following Louis XIV's example of using tapestry sets to confirm both status and power. Thus, while the Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria (d. 1726) and the Margrave Louis of Baden (d. 1707) both commissioned a series to commemorate their victory over the Turks at the Siege of Vienna in 1683, William III of England (d. 1702) ordered a set so as not to be outdone by his great rival, the Sun King. Surprisingly all three chose to commission Brussels ateliers rather than their own weavers.
The Elector of Bavaria tapestries were the first to be completed. Comprising a set of eight, of which seven are known to still exist, they were recorded in the 1696 accounts:
Achat par l'electeur Maximilien Emmanuel, le 1 avril 1696, d'une suite de tapisseries de Bruxelles tissées par G. Van der Borcht et J. de Clercq.
Comprising 'Campement', 'Fachinade', 'Embuscade', 'Pillage', 'La Marche', 'Fouragement', 'Rencontre' and 'Attacque', the series cost the huge amount of 3,787½ escus and were woven by Jerôme Le Clerc (d. circa 1720) and Jasper van der Borght (d. 1742), who are known to have collaborated on several large series to decrease the time it took to complete such commissions. These two weavers are believed to have woven all the sets of the first series of cartoons of which Lambert de Hondt, who flourished in Brussels in the 1690s, is believed to be the designer. It is interesting to note that none of the panels actually record specific Victories, but rather depict general scenes of campaigns, and only one of the set, La Marche, actually glorifies the Commander-in-Chief.
This Bavarian set, of which two panels remain at the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich, and five at the castle of Schleissheim, has identical borders to the present tapestries. Moreover, the set woven for the Elector all have an identical anvil inscribed with the title of the tapestry. In addition to the set of eight originally ordered, there are further tapestries with identical borders, including 'A mounted trooper questioning a peasant', the same subject as lot 229, here entitled 'Vivandier' (Food supplier to the camp), but the anvil is not inscribed. This suggests that the Elector possibly extended the existing first set, although no records of such a commission have been traced.
The set woven for the Margrave of Baden differs in having varying military trophy borders with figures to the bases of each side, and the set made for William III around 1700 remains untraced. It is, however, possible that the set mentioned in a letter dated 13 September 1706 from John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough to his wife Sarah, refers to William III's set:
I am told of a Sute of Hangings that is at Antwerp that may be bought for eighteen hundred pounds & that they are worth much more. Wou'd you have mee bye them? They have neither silver nor gold in them nor were ever us'd. They were bespoke by the late King...
It has been suggested that these tapestries are the ones which were sold upon the expulsion of the House of Orange in 1799 and subsequently in these Rooms, 12 June 1929, lot 119.
After the wars of the Spanish Succession between 1700 and 1714, when the invincible French army was beaten by the Allies, the Duke of Marlborough (d. 1722) had two sets woven for himself and six further sets were completed for his Generals: Lord Cadogan, the Duke of Argyll, Lord Orkney, General Lumley, Lord Cobham and General Webb. The first set for the Duke of Marlborough was possibly a gift from the town of Brussels to the Duke upon its liberation in 1706. It is woven with gold to the arms at the top and the borders were re-designed by Jan van Orley. Of the subsequent sets made for the Generals only three remain traceable, those of Lord Orkney, Lord Cobham and General Lumley. All but the series woven for General Lumley bear the arms of their owner. Only the set woven for Lord Orkney and the one that remains at Blenheim Palace are known to have trophy borders, while the other sets have picture-frame borders.
The second version of the series, commissioned by the Duke of Marlborough to commemorate specific events rather than the general subjects of the earlier series, as well as all the subsequent weavings were executed in the ateliers of Jodocus de Vos. Twelve further sets were woven from these re-designed cartoons, partially re-using sections of the old subjects and sometimes reversing the main fields.
It is therefore most likely that lots 228 and 229 belonged either to the set woven for William III, or to the additional set of tapestries ordered by the Elector Max Emanuel, some of which have been identified at Schleissheim.
THE PROPERTY OF BARON COPPEE