A Rare Giant Leaf Tapestry

A Rare Giant Leaf Tapestry

Southern Netherlands
Circa 1550
104″ high x 121″ wide

The effect is thrillingly modern: a border-to-border field of enormous acanthus leaves, enlivened by exotic birds and other animals, and seeming to run over the edges, like a 20th-century abstract work of art.

These unusual tapestries emerged from the three main weaving centers in the Southern Netherlands in the mid 16th-century. At that time there was an excited interest in plants and animals brought back from Asia and the Americas, and the sudden fashion for these sumptuous tapestries was a reflection of that. The works were generally scaled large, befitting the homes of the collectors who could afford them, and were meant to convey a feeling of being engulfed by the wildness of the natural world.

These were prized possessions and comparatively few have survived.

Look closely: the ochre and beige areas are later repairs, expertly executed most likely in the same region where the tapestry was originally produced. These patches were never dyed to match, thus increasing the quality of abstraction in the figures. Notice the creatures included in the composition, from snails to dragon flies to parrots. The blues are oceanic.

The tapestry has been lined with Belgian linen and has new framing edges in velvet.

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