Court Scene Southern Netherlands, probably Brussels, early 16th century Wool & silk 259 x 228 cm
Court Scene Southern Netherlands, probably Brussels, Early sixteenth century Unidentified designer Wool & silk, 259 x 228 cm
Against a Cloth of Honor, a young lady wearing a diadem sits on a throne, and is surrounded by a host of figures. With a sceptre in her right hand, she points to a lady and a gentleman in front of her. The lady hands a sealed message to another female attendant, while the young man presents a tablet to the seated lady. Another lady sits in the left corner of the composition, and holds a textile bordered with fringes in her lap.
The exact meaning of this scene remains unknown, because of a lack of more recognisable attributes. It belongs presumably to some medieval legend of nobility. The tablet presented to the queen likely shows a portrait, with an accompanying explanation in the sealed message. It may allude to a noble wedding; when a candidate for a noble or royal wedding lived in a country some distance away, his painted portrait was carried to the potential bride so she could assess his appearance. Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy sent the famous painter Jan van Eyck to Portugal for this purpose in October 1428. He was commissioned to paint a portrait of Isabella, daughter of King John I of Portugal, and also had to negotiate the wedding contract, which was made in January 1429. The lady on the throne holds four roses in her lap. This may also allude to some chivalric story, maybe a scene from the famous Roman de la Rose , a medieval allegorical poem.
The borders of the scene are filled with fine branches of flowers in eight rectangular sections, separated by fluttering birds in eight square sections. The same design has been applied on a tapestry with the Triumph of the Virgin, now in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. It belongs to a large group of religious allegories about Christ or the Virgin, produced in Brussels around 1500.
The scene on this tapestry is framed by colonettes and an arch. The same design can be seen on Glorification of Christ (Brussels, Royal Museums of Art & History) and on two pieces with Allegories on the Life of the Virgin woven in Brussels by Pieter van Aelst and sold in 1502 to Queen Joanna of Spain, mother of Emperor Charles V (Madrid, Royal collection, Series 2). This particular composition may originally have been one section of a much larger tapestry with multiple related scenes.
Some details of the clothing worn by the figures, such as the headgear and robes, are almost identical to those on the Allegory of the Nativity dated to 1502 (Madrid, Royal collection, Series 2). The crowned lady wears a dress of blue velvet designed with a pomegranate pattern. This design is frequently seen in Brussels tapestry from this period, but it is usually used for upholstery or backdrops for thrones (see an example from a David set, Brussels around 1515; Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, Series 3/ II,, and not for garments. The robe of the lady at the front left is more typical, it is made from precious drap d’or; silk woven with gold threads.
Guy Delmarcel e.a. , Golden Weavings. Flemish Tapestries of the Spanish Crown, Malines – Munich – Amsterdam, 1993, p.20-21 & 33-34
Elizabeth Cleland, & Lorraine Karafel, Tapestries from the Burrell Collection, London, Philip Wilson Publ., 2017, pp. 514-520