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The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image

The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image

The

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. http://www.justdogstrollers.com/26151-h/26151-h/26151-h.htm 70 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image MEETING OF ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA Brussels Tapestry. Woven by Gerard van den Strecken. Cartoon attributed to Rubens The border was evidently inspired by Raphael’s classic figures and arabesques, but the column of design is naïvely broken by the far perspective of a formal garden. The Italian cartoonist would have built his border, figure and arabesque, one above another like a fantastic column (vide Mr. Blumenthal’s Mercury border). The Fleming saw the intricacy, the multiplied detail, but missed the intellectual harmony. But, such trifles apart, the Flemish examples of this style that have come to us are thrilling in their beauty of colour, and borders such as this are an infinite joy. This tapestry was woven about the last quarter of the Sixteenth Century by a weaver named Jacques Geubels of Brussels, who was employed by Carlier, a merchant of Antwerp. As the fruit of the Renaissance graft on Flanders coarsened and deteriorated, a new influence arose in the Low Countries, one that was bound to submerge all others. Rubens appeared and spread his great decorative surfaces before eyes that were tired of hybrid design. This great scene-painter introduced into all Europe a new method in his voluptuous, vigorous work, a method especially adapted to tapestry weaving. It is not for us to quarrel with the art of so great a master. The critics of painting scarce do that; but in the lesser art of tapestry the change brought about by his cartoons was not a happy one. His great dramatic scenes required to be copied directly from the canvas, no liberty of line or colour could be allowed the weaver. In times past, the tapissier—with talent almost as great as that of the cartoonist—altered at his discretion. Even he to whom the Raphael cartoons were entrusted changed here and there the work of the master. But now he was expected to copy without license for change. In other words, the time was arriving when tapestries were changing from decorative fabrics into paintings in wool. It takes courage to avow a distaste for the newer method, seeing what rare and beautiful hangings it has produced. But after a study of the purely decorative hangings of Gothic and Renaissance work, how forced and false seem the later gods. The value

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. http://www.justdogstrollers.com/26151-h/26151-h/26151-h.htm 71 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 of the tapestries is enormous, they are the work of eminent men—but the heart turns away from them and revels again in the Primitives and the Italians of the Cinque Cento. Repining is of little avail. The mode changes and tastes must change with it. If the gradual decadence after the Renaissance was deplorable, it was well that a Rubens rose in vigour to set a new and vital copy. To meet new needs, more tones of colour and yet more, were required by the weaver, and thus came about the making of woven pictures. As one picture is worth many pages of description, it were well to observe the examples given (plate facing page 79) of the superb set of Antony and Cleopatra, a series of designs attributed to Rubens, executed in Brussels by Gerard van den Strecken. This set is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. T CHAPTER VIII ITALY FIFTEENTH THROUGH SEVENTEENTH CENTURIES HE history of tapestry in Italy is the story of the great families, their romances and achievements. These families were those which furnished rulers of provinces —kings, almost—which supplied popes as well, and folk who thought a powerful man’s pleasurable duty was to interest himself seriously in the arts. With the fine arts all held within her hand, it was but logical that Italy should herself begin to produce the tapestries she was importing from the land of the barbarians as those beyond her northern borders were arrogantly called. First among the records is found the name of the Gonzaga family which called important Flemish weavers down to Mantua, and there wove designs of Mantegna, in the highest day of their factory’s production, about 1450. Duke Frederick of Urbino is one of the early Italian patrons of tapestry whose name is made unforgettable in this connexion by the product of the factory he established toward the end of the Fifteenth Century, at his court in the little duchy which included only the space reaching from the Apennines to the Adriatic and from Rimini to Ancona. The chief work of this factory was the History of Troy which cost the generous and enthusiastic duke a hundred thousand dollars. The great d’Este family was one to follow persistently the art, possibly because it habited the northern part of the peninsula and was therefore nearer Flanders, but more probably because the great Duke of Ferrara was animated by that superb pride of race that chafes at rivalry; this, added to a wish to encourage art, and the lust of possession which characterised the great men of that day. It was the middle of the Sixteenth Century that Ercole II, the head of the d’Este family, revived at Ferrara the factory of his family which had suffered from the wars. The master-weavers were brought from Flanders, not only to produce tapestries almost

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