Tag: wool rug

Flemmish Tapestry #20440: circa 1700

Tapestry, Flemish, probably Brussels, depicting a scene from the Story of Tobias.

Late 17th Century

7’ 2” x 10’ 2” (originally approximately 10-10’ 6” x 12’ 6”- 13”)

No weaver’s on town mark.

Rebordered in plain stripes; slightly reduced from larger piece.


Warp: wool, beige, natural, Z-2-S, 11-12 warps/in

Pattern Wefts:

  1. wool, Z-1
  2. silk, golden-beige only, not original, several restoration campaigns.

Weft density: wool, 21-25 facing wefts (42-50 overall) /inch.

Subject: Tobias and the archangel Rafael.

The iconographic source is the Apocryphal Book of Tobit (O.T.). The present panel displays vigorous, almost life size figures of Tobias, son of Tobit and his escort Rafael in the guise of Azarias, and accompanied by his faithful dog. Tobias and the Angel are in semi-classical garb, thus placing the action in an ancient or mythical past. Further, Tobias is dressed as a hunter with spear and bow, but lacks quiver and arrows.  His dog is a hunting hound. The garments of both protagonists are wind blown, thus indicating rapid forward movement.

The iconography of Tobias varies in Western art, but here he is a young man with a blonde mustache, not the boy as is frequent in this tale. The angel is androgynous (the pearl earring) and lacks any angelic attributes. The wings are mimicked by the windblown drapery. They will only be revealed later. The figures pass through a pure, wooded landscape with no buildings or people visible in the small views through the forest. There is a variety of small flowering plants in the lower foreground.

This panel comes from a set of at least four (or probably six) tapestries which may have included some of the following scenes:

  1. The blinding of old Tobit, Tobias’s father, from bird droppings in his eyes.
  2. Tobias taking leave of his father in order to travel to Rhages to collect a debt before the old man’s demise;
  3. Tobias and the angel en route to Rhages – our panel;
  4. Tobias at the bank of the Tigris river catching the giant fish which has attacked him. The Angel informs him that certain innards of the fish will be useful and in particular, that the intestines or gall bladder will cure his father’s blindness;
  5. Tobias applying the piscine entrails to his father’s eyes;
  6. The Archangel, after having revealed himself, taking leave of the house of Tobias after the cure;
  7. Tobias meeting or betrothing Sara, she of many husbands;
  8. Tobias and Sara in prayer.

Because of the Tobias-Sara connection, these tapestry sets were popular in Europe in the upper classes as marriage gifts from the 16th century onwards. A six piece set, late 17th century of either Brussels or Dutch origin covered the walls of the Stadtholder of Friesland in his mansion in Leeuwarden.

Although the series was often a marriage present, there are a few sets surviving, Gobel (Wandteppichie, v.I) and Tapestry in the Baroque MMA 2008), do not illustrate or mention specific Flemish Tobias story series or panels.

Condition: although slightly reduced and rebordered, this piece is not a fragment of a much larger panel. There is some rewefting in the wool areas and a few small reweaves. The overall condition is good with strong colors across the entire palette, the reds and yellows have held up well. The silk areas which have been replaced are discreet and not light or “hot” as is the case with many injudicious restorations.

In general, the tapestry is very attractive with large, lively figures and clear colors, it is extremely decorative in the best sense.




#40-570 Flander Tapestry: circa 1700

Flemish Tapestry Panel
Audenarde, c. 1600
8’1” x 9’5”
Warp: wool, ivory to light brown, some mixing, natural, Z-Z-S 8-9 warps/in., a few areas up to 12/in.
Weft: wool, Z-1, Z-Z-S, 28-30 pattern shouts/in;
Woven sideways, left to right, on a horizontal loom as finer pieces were done vertical looms.
Generally in good condition with colors well preserved; small areas of reweaving or re-wefting; plain outer salvage trimmed with loss of town and weaver’s marks. Some brown outlines improved.


King David (to right) gives Uriah the Hittite (on left) a secret order to be conveyed to the commending general ??????. This order places Uriah in the frost line of battle, thereby assuring his demise. Uriah is the husband of Bathsheba whom David covertly covets and who will marry him after Uriah is killed. David’s penitence will eventually follow.

Probably from a Life of David series or perhaps from a series of old Testament scenes. There seem to be no other panels from this cycle recorded in the literature.

Attribution: The attribution to the provincial weaving town of Audenarde is loused or close similarities to pieces possessing the town & weavers’ marks in the outer plain border. Diagnostic are the following stylized background elements:

  1. The “building block” castle;
  2. The round, puffy “cotton ball” trees in rows blanketing the landscape.
  3. Pointy, sharply outlined distant mountains.

In comparison we may consider:

  1. H. Gőbel, Tapestries of The Lowlands, no. 357, a landscape with similar, but better, mountains and trees.
  2. Christie’s, London, Mayorcas Sale, 12.2.99, lot 316, Game Park 9’5” x 14’6”, 16c (late) with similar pointy mountains, cotton ball trees, identical trees, and similar foreground foliage elements. All wool, no silk. Probably from the same workshop as our example, but lacking identifying marks. Sold for ₤40,000 = $64,800
  3. The same pointy mountains with cotton ball trees appear in a panel from a different Life of David set depicting the Death of Absalom, 3.27 x 5.25m, end of the 16c., Beaune, Musee des Hospices. Pub in Dhondt, no. 9.

The curly hair and beards arc virtually identical to our example which is from a                  somewhat less distinguished series, however.

Interestingly, de Meuter in her magisterial surrey of Audenarde weaving does not focus on any Life of David series. Could our example be from a later edition of the same cartoon as the Beaune examples, albeit with different borders? The Beaune piece has a town mark, but lacks that of the weaver.

  1. The same mountains and trees recur in tapestry of Jason & Medea with Golden Fleece, c 1580-1600, 3.04m x 4.24 from the Abbey of Kremsműnster (de Meuter, p. 177)
  2. The same larger trees, mountains, etc. again appear in a Game Park panel, 1580-1600, with an unidentified weaver’s mark from the Audenardo Galerie d’Art M. Ragge-De Baere (de Meauter, p. 178) The floral border with round cartouches centering each side is no identical to recent published examples, but there are the same useful parallels.
  3. Similar elliptical/round cartouches in border centers appear on a Game Park examples, c.1580 – 1600 (de Meuter, p-143). The trees and mountains are also in the usual formula. The weaver’s mark, again & alas, is not identified. The border on our example was constructed from
    1. The left and right borders (left woven first) are identical in content and direction’s
    2. The top border is an axial reflection across the center;
    3. The lower border uses the same cartoon as the upper with similar axial reflection, but in addition.
    4. The pumpkin still life is inverted from right to left;
    5. The central roundels with castles are unchanged in both end borders.

These simple manipulations of a few basic modules allow the weaver to produce variety without the expanse of additional cartoon. This is characteristic of production for the middle class in a provincial production centre.

Diagrammatically we see

The castles in the roundels are top/bottom and right/left identical, and are generic buildings with no reference to particular estates.

  1. Gőbel, no. 448 has side borders repeated in the same direction and has roundels in the centers of all 4 sides. He dates it c.1640 but clearly it seems earlier, c.1610
  2. A Brussels panel, early 17c. 8’8” x 11’4” with an unidentified Biblical scene was sold Sotheby’s N.Y., 23.5.03, lot 81, est. $10 – 15,000. It was of slightly finer execution and equally preserved color. (see p. for more comperanda).

Weaving in Audenarde is comprehensively covered in two recent exhibitions catalogues:

L. DeMeuter, M. Vanwelder, etc. al Tapesseries d’Audenarde du XVI au XVII Siecles, Tiele, 1999

L. Dhondt and F. Van Ommeslaeghe, Audenarde: Tapisseries Flamandes du XVI au XVIII Siecles, Arras, 1994

The illustrations only partly overlap and neither includes additional members of the series of our piece, thus it seems to be unknown to the specialist literature.

  1. Of roughly the same quality and period, but slightly larger is a hunting tapestry from Audenarde, end 16c. 8’9” x 11’2”, sold Sotheby’s, N.Y., 13.1.95 lot 78, est. $20-25,000
  2. A Biblical panel, c.1600 probably from nearby Enghien, 10’6” x 12’9” was sold Sotheby’s, N.Y. 6.6.94, lot 168, est. $20-25,000.




Rugs of the Week

Two vintage mid-20th century ecuadorian Carpets Designed by Olga Fisch.

Of Hungarian origin, Olga Fisch(1901-1991) emigrated in 1933, first to Morocco and in 1939 to Ecuador, head of the political instability  wracking Europe. Already an artist and collector of folk art, Fisch quickly took to the local arts and crafts available in the Quito markets. She was inspired by primitive, folk and paleolithic cave art and established a workshop creating knotted pile carpets to her individualistic and unique designs. The firm continues today, as does the museum of (primarily) Ecuadorian folk art. Only domestic sheep wool is employed and the rugs are firmly symmetrically (Turkish) knotted on a cotton foundation at a density of 60,000 knots per square metre or about 40 knots per square inch.  It takes four weavers about six weeks to complete a 9’ by 12’ carpet.

Our two carpets, both from the 1950’s, are in her most popular and iconic -patterns. Number 21953 (12’ by 16)’ in the “Caverna” pattern, displays, on an ivory ground, and without borders, an agitated congeries of stick figures of hunters and prey, primarily deer, adapted from the Paleolithic cave paintings of Lascaux, discovered in 1940 and incredibly influential in mid-century art. Whereas most examples are in the 9’ by 12’ or 10’ by 13’ formats, this is certainly one of the largest renderings of the pattern. The increased size allows the larger hunters and animals free movement, and increases the impact of the individual figures. Small variants were also woven, with only a few animals, also on a beige ground.

Our other carpet, number 21802 (11.0 x 13.4) is a rare oval creation with the “Cabalito”  pattern inspired by  the folk embroidery on the “danzantes’ participants in the Corpus Christi processions from Cotopaxi, Ecuador. A number of these costumes are in the Olga Fisch Folk Art Museum in Quito. The pattern densely fills the ivory field with mobile figures, horses and vegetal motives. It is reminiscent of certain Greek Island women’s costume embroideries. Often the “Cabalito” pattern occupies an oval or lobed section  on an otherwise plain rectangular carpet, but here is the pattern takes up almost all of the oval,  with its energetic filigree of figures, fauna and flora.

Other popular Olga Fisch patterns include the “Churos” design with angular discrete spirals on a subtly tones beige ground, a study in mid-century minimalism with only dark brown as an accent colour.

Olga Fisch carpets are as 1950’s modern as they get and our examples cry out for the right Danish or Swedish modern furniture as their perfect accompaniments. Some Italian Murano glass table objects won’t hurt either. A Neutra or Schindler house in the Los Angeles hills is definitely the perfect context, but any mid-century ranch house is certainly welcoming.

Ecuadorian Rug #21802, size 13’4″ x 11’0″
Ecuadorian Rug #21953, size 16’0″ x 12’0″