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 Emmanuel 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, Louis XIV. 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 tisses 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 3,787 escus and was woven by Jrme 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 which are believed to have been designed by Lambert de Hondt, who was active in Brussels in the 1690s. 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.
After the wars of the Spanish Succession between 1700 and 1714, when the hitherto invincible French army was defeated 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.
The Lumley set was possibly brought to England by Richard Lumley (d. 1721), Lieutenant-General of forces in Flanders, who was created Viscount Lumley and Earl of Scarborough in 1690 and who had re-built Stansted in 1687, or by his eldest son Richard, 2nd Earl of Scarborough (d. 1740). This set is larger than the others and consists of nine panels, derived from seven of the eight original subjects. It remained together until its sale in 1961.
The second version of this tapestry series as well as the subsequent weavings were almost certainly all executed in the ateliers of Jodocus de Vos (d. after 1725). The second set of the Art of War series executed for the Duke of Marlborough, which was woven by de Vos, was probably completed in about 1717. That set was to commemorate actual victories of the Duke. Eleven or twelve further generals or princes who had participated on either side of these wars subsequently commissioned de Vos to weave sets for them, sometimes reversing the main fields.
Jrme Le Clerc (d. 1720) received his privileges in 1677 and took over his father Jan's workshop in 1676. His workshop was one of the most important of Brussels at the turn of the century. Jasper van der Borght (d. 1724), from an important dynasty of weavers, received his privileges in 1694.
Two panels from the first series depicting Attacque and Vivandier from the property of Baron Coppe were sold in these Rooms, 26 November 1996, lots 228 and 229, while another two from the second, depicting Campement and La Marche and bearing the arms of Johann Wenzel Graf Wratislaw (d. 1712), were sold anonymously in these Rooms, 1 October 1998, lots 221 and 222.
A. Wace, The Marlborough Tapestries at Blenheim Palace, London, 1968.