Still dazzling after four hundred years, this tapestry is a rare survival of the Medici tapestry workshops in Florence in the early 17th century. Lavishly woven with gold and silver thread, the details of the workmanship are extraordinarily fine and, considering the age and fragility of the material, it remains in superb condition.
As suggested by Meoni, in her archival research and catalogue on the Medici tapestry workshops, the present tapestry was almost certainly made by the French master weaver, Pierre Lefebvre. Lefebvre, who arrived in Florence in 1618 and changed his name to Pietro Févère, was recorded as immediately working for the Medici court producing household tapestries and upholstery but also tapestries copied from paintings for the Guardaroba del Taglio. Févère eventually became head of the Medici tapestry workshops in 1630.
But it was probably during his first months in Florence, in 1618, that the present tapestry was produced, as Meoni records that gold and silver was allotted to Févère by the Guardaroba for a ‘tapestry after a picture’ in early 1619. The present tapestry may be after a lost or unknown painting by Andrea del Sarto and it clearly relates very closely to other del Sarto paintings in the Medici collections, such as the Sacra famiglia Medici, in the Palazzo Pitti and the Due putti con cartiglio in the Uffizi (both illustrated and closely compared to details of the present tapestry by Meoni). There is also another Févère tapestry in the collections of the Pitti Palace (IA 1912-25 n. 772) – very similar to the present lot – this one by both Pietro and his son Filippo and dated to much later in 1660 which is a direct copy of del Sarto’s Sacra famiglia Medici.
Not seen in public since it was last sold in 1944, this tapestry is a fresh reminder of a lesser-known moment in Florentine craftsmanship and Medici patronage.