Work The Hunts of Maximilian: The Month of September
Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance
The Month of September (sign of Libra)
© 1992 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet
This is the seventh tapestry in a series representing the twelve months of the year with scenes from the hunting parties of Archduke Maximilian (the Habsburg duke of Brabant). This example illustrates a stag hunt, and was for a long time known as the Belles Chasses de Guise, after its French owner in the first half of the seventeenth century. It entered the French royal collections early in the reign of Louis XIV, where it quickly became celebrated as a masterpiece of the art of tapestry.
The tapestry illustrates an episode from a stag-hunt: the quarry has jumped into a pond, hoping to shake off its pursuers. The traditional "bat l'eau" signal has been sounded (literally, "beat the water") and the stag is surrounded by hounds and two men, one of whom is already gripping it by the antlers. In the foreground, the other huntsmen - whippers-in, lords and ladies on horseback - wait in a group at the water's edge. The buildings on the opposite bank locate this scene, like the others in the series, to the Forêt de Soignes on the outskirts of Brussels: Groenendaal Priory and the nearby hunting lodge at Ravenstein were favorite stopping-places for the court. The rich garland of flowers and fruit enlivened by numerous small animals, filling the borders at the top and sides, is a characteristic feature of Brussels tapestries. The lower border features a trompe-l'oeil "Antique" relief, with divinities and sea monsters.
The tapestry's history
The tapestry is a choice item, richly-woven using costly materials, but its origins remain uncertain. The records tell us that in 1533 a dealer in tapestries by the name of Guillaume Dermoyen signed a contract with two merchants for a tapestry of a hunting scene with dimensions identical to those in the Louvre series. However, it is not known whether the tapestry in question was the original or a copy. The first known record of the Louvre series proper is in an inventory of the collections of the Duc de Guise in 1589. The series remained in the Guise family until 1654, when it was bought by Cardinal Mazarin, from whom Louis XIV acquired it in 1665. It remained in the French Royal Furniture Depository (the Garde-Meuble) during the Revolution, after which it became the property of the state. Following the burning of several famous tapestries in 1797 (in order to recover their gold thread), the work was saved by the administration of the Musée Centrale des Arts (now the Musée du Louvre), who acquired it for the nascent Louvre collection, exhibited at the time in the palace's Salon Carré.
The High Renaissance in Brussels
In the early sixteenth century, the tapestry workshops of Brussels produced work of remarkable quality, unrivaled in Europe. The cycle illustrating the Acts of the Apostles, based on cartoons by Raphael, was begun in Brussels in 1516, introducing the new aesthetic of the Italian High Renaissance: compositions became brighter and more complex, with rational perspective, and figures (individually and in groups) became livelier and more monumental. Borders were filled with naturalistic decorations, in the Flemish tradition. Around 1525, Bernard van Orley was active as a court artist to Margaret of Austria, specializing in designs for stained glass and tapestry. Immersed in the style of Raphael, he produced harmoniously-balanced compositions featuring small, dynamic groups. Jan Tons (probably the Younger) produced cartoons for elements of the landscape and fauna depicted in the series.
Bibliography- BALIS Arnoult, DE JONGE Krista, DELMERCEL Guy, LEFEBURE Amaury, Les Chasses de Maximilien, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 1993.
- COQUERY Emmanuel, "Les Chasses et la Bataille", in La Bataille de Pavie, Paris, 1999, pp. 76-89.
- LEFEBURE Amaury, Les Chasses de Maximilien, feuillet Louvre 6 26.
After Bernard van ORLEY (Brussels, c. 1488 - Brussels, 1541)
The Month of September (sign of Libra)
Tapestry, wool, silk, gold and silver thread
H. 4.40 m; W. 5.63 m
Former Crown collection
Seventh tapestry from the set of the "Hunts of Maximilian"
Gallery of The Hunts of Maximilian
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