Tapestry Production in the Upper Rhine Region
This charming tapestry forms part of a small group of 51 known Strasbourg tapestries of the 15th Century known to survive. This panel was almost certainly conceived as a cushion frontal and the image appears to survive largely complete. These panels often functioned as official gifts, wall decorations during public events or even hangings for facades of buildings during processions. The tapestry production of Strasbourg was not far behind Flemish examples in quantity, but it may be because of the generally small size of these tapestries and their use that so few survive today.
Documents reveal that the majority of the commissions came from members of the social elite who were active in finance, politics or in the church. Although it is not known how many weavers were active in Strasbourg, the surviving panels document a constant tapestry production throughout the 15th Century. Numerous workshops throughout the region of the upper Rhine were active in the 15th Century and more recent studies have revealed that most of them were full workshops rather than single independent patrician women or nuns working.
Tapestries of this type were known as Heidnischwerk (Non-Christian Work), a name that was employed for both profane and religious subjects, indicating a generic use of the name for all tapestries of Switzerland and Southern Germany. The origins of the name are not certain, but it may refer to the place where tapestry weaving originated or to the expensive damask or brocade backgrounds that were produced by non-Christians, which were frequently depicted in the background of these tapestries.
The young woman has retreated into nature, among courtly animals such as a hound, swans, pheasant and parrot, to contemplate her future. The scroll is inscribed 'Myn hertz ist aller duget vol den es andersz werden soll' (My heart is rich in virtues, because it will change) and 'Niema sol sich selbert blieme de rieme(?)' (Nobody should him/herself…). The partly effaced saying indicates that she lets her heart blossom with noble virtues. This will strengthen her for the suggested future heartaches, which accompany the imminent luck in love, announced by the little rose growing from the heart.
(A Rapp Buri, M. Stucky-Schürer, Zahm und Wild, Basler und Strassburger Bildteppiche des 15. Jahrhunderts, Mainz, 1990).