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Tapestry of the Life of Saint Anatoile de Salin: the Miracle of the Water

© Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
Middle Ages

Ribou Marie-Hélène de

This tapestry was the twelfth piece of a ensemble of fourteen pieces commissioned by the canons of the collegiate church of St. Anatoile de Salins. The wallcovering was intended to adorn the nave and transept of the building. The first seven pieces represented the saint's life and the other seven his burial, the translation of his body, and the miracles that occurred near the saint's relics. Only the three pieces preserved in the Louvre are known to be extant.

A procession in a saltworks

There had been saltworks at Salins since classical times, extracting salt from the saltwater springs there. The first such installation, known as the Well at Muire, consisted of a large, deep, vaulted underground hall, where water was collected, and buildings on the surface, where it was treated. Underground, water from the springs ran into a reservoir; a mechanical device, powered by a horse, brought it to the surface. It was then directed to tanks placed near boilers, where it was evaporated, leaving a deposit of salt.
The two levels of the saltworks are depicted in the tapestry, but the scene has been embellished. The canons, followed by laymen, are carrying the chief reliquary of St. Anatoile in procession towards the empty reservoir as water spurts out of the rock. In 1467, following some construction work, the saltwater springs disappeared for several days. The scene shows the result of an appeal to St. Anatoile for help, which is said to have made the water reappear. At the bottom of the tapestry is a key explaining the depiction of the miracle.

A difficult commission

Records are preserved that allow the origins of the hanging to be traced. An initial agreement was concluded in 1502 with Marc van Yelingen, a weaver from Brussels who had come especially to Salins for the purpose. He undertook to make the tapestry and to finish the first section of it by the feast of St. John on 24 June. However, the commission was very quickly taken away from him. In March, two representatives of the town left for Bruges, where the task of carrying out the project was given instead to Catharina Hasselet. In April 1503 the first six sections were delivered, but then the project ran into difficulties. After many problems, the canons only managed to obtain the final piece three years later.

A tapestry that is both traditional and modern

On the whole, this tapestry belongs to the medieval tradition. The scene represented fills the entire space. The characters are wearing costumes belonging to the period when it was woven, not ones that are contemporary with the events depicted. Each element is intricately woven, with great attention to detail.
There are a few timid attempts at achieving a unified perspective, probably owed to the influence of painting. These show developments that were just beginning to be felt, which would culminate with the arrival in Brussels of Raphael's cartoons for the Acts of the Apostles tapestry.


Baudienville Marie-Paule, La Tenture de Saint-Anatoile de Salins, Mémoire pour la licence d'Histoire de l'Art, Université Lille III, 1980.

Bruges et la Tapisserie, Bruges - Mouscron, 1987, catalogue n 2, pp. 170-179. La tapisserie présentée est La levée du siège de Dôle en 1477.

Technical description

  • Workshop of Jean SAUVAGE

    Tapestry of the Life of Saint Anatoile de Salin: the Miracle of the Water



  • Tapestry: wool and silk

  • Acquired from the town of Salins as part of the Audéoud bequest, 1914* , 1914

    OA 6705

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Anne de Bretagne
    Room 505

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