Tamerlane (or Timour the Lame) (1336-1405), a Mongol conqueror remembered for the barbarity of his conquests, initially settled in Uzbekistan after taking part in Genghis Khan's son Chagatai's campaigns. After occupying Moscow and Lithuania, he turned his attention to Persia and conquered Iraq, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Mesopotamia and Georgia. He continued by invading India and destroying Delhi in 1398. His last great expedition was to Egypt to punish its Mamluk Sultan and the Ottoman Sultan Bayazid 1 (circa 1360-1403) for occupying some of Tamerlane's territories. He defeated the Mamluk armies and occupied Damascus and Baghdad and then destroyed Bayazid's army near Ankara in 1402. Bayazid had founded the first centralised Ottoman state based on Turkish and Muslim foundations. His early campaigns included those against Greece, Albania, Hungary, Byzantium and Venice. Bayezid was captured at Ankara and died in captivity, while Tamerlane died in 1405 while moving towards China.
HISTORY OF THE SET:
This series, consisting of eight panels, is repeatedly mentioned in documents concerning Antwerp between 1673 and 1699 and appears to have been largely sold to clients in central Europe. The earliest mention of the series is in a letter relating to the purchase of a set by Count Ferdinand Bonaventura 1 von Harrach (d. 1706) in 1673 through the marchand Ascanio Martini. The cartoons were successively owned by
Andries van Butsel (in 1677), who sent various sets to the dealers Alexander and Marcus Forchont in Vienna, Maria Anna Wauters (in 1687) and lastly by the merchant Nicolaas Nauwelaerts (in 1699). The success of this subject was largely due to the contemporary conflicts with the Ottomans, who were only decisively beaten into retreat in 1683, when Vienna was liberated from their siege, mirroring Bayazid's crushing defeat by Tamerlane.
Complete sets of this series survive in the St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, and in the Abbey at Kremsmünster, which was purchased in 1678. Further panels are in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, in St. Petersburg and the Vatican (the latter three may be from the same set). It is interesting to note that this subject is differently rendered in the above series and it may therefore be that this tapestry forms part of a different series.
Johannes Hoebraken became a master painter in Antwerp in 1640 and is recorded there until 1674. He is accredited with the creation of the designs for the very successful History of Zenobia and is believed to be the author of the Tamerlane series.
The series is first recorded with the weaver Andries van Butsel (d. 1685) in 1677 when he deposited a set at the Vienna warehouse of Alexander and Marcus Forchout. The cartoons probably passed to Maria Anna Wauters upon his death and later to the 'Antwerp merchant Nauwelaerts (E. Duverger, Antwerp Tapestries of the seventeenth Centur'. The Connoisseur, April 1977, p. 277). The lack of signature makes a certain attribution impossible.
(G. Delmarcel, Flemish Tapestry, Tielt, 1999, pp. 261-265, D. Heinz, Europäische Tapisseriekunst des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, Vienna, 1995, p. 78, E. Neumann, Tamerlan und Bajazet eine antwerpener Tapisserien-Serie des 17. Jahrhunderts, Miscellanea Jozef Duverger, Ghent, 1968, pp. 819-835).