Artwork of the Day – Gobelins Tapestry


Liverpool artwork of the day – Tuesday October 2 2007. ‘The Report: The Month of July’ c1730 – 40. French (Gobelins) Woven in wool and silk, 425.5 x 353.5cm in Lady Lever Gallery

The Gobelins group of tapestries came from Lews Castle, Stornoway. Leverhulme purchased them in 1918, at the same time as buying the castle itself with the Isle of Lewis. Lews Castle had been built in 1847 and lavishly furnished in a ‘baronial’ style by another Victorian entrepreneur, Sir James Matheson (d 1878). Matheson had made his fortune partly through the Chinese opium trade. He founded the Far Eastern business empire of Jardine Matheson. The tapestries were extensively damaged at the time of purchase and were repaired in 1919 with partial reweavings.

This work is a French copy, woven to a reduced format and in reverse, of one of the prestigious series of twelve 16th century Brussels tapestries that use hawking, deer- and boar-hunting scenes to represent months of the year. The series was collectively titled ‘The Hunts of Maximilian’ and may originally have been produced for the Emperor Charles V. The gallery owns tapestries representing three of the months, June, July and October. The copies were probably woven for an aristocrat at the court of Louis XV.

The foreground hunters are making a ‘report’ of the animals of which they have found trace before setting off on the stag hunt. The figure on the horse to whom the hunters are speaking was previously thought to represent Mary of Hungary, sister of Charles V and Regent of the Low Countries. Now, however, it is thought to be her brother, Ferdinand of Austria. In the background is the Priory of Rouge-Cloitre (Rooklooster), on the edge of the royal hunting forest of Soignes, south of Brussels. This is where the Emperor and his party often stopped during hunts.