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Group Head, Private Collections, Furniture & Works of Art, U.K
Provenance: Collection of Howard Hodgkin.
Large leaf tapestries with their boisterous leaves and spiralling trails were woven in the second and third quarters of the 16th century in a number of weaving centres including Enghien, Grammont and Audenarde. However it is likely that these large leaf verdure tapestries were produced in other cities - even towns of the Marche district in France may have woven similar examples. The rarity of town marks on the tapestries and limited descriptions in 16th century records make it hard to identify the specific weaving centres for these tapestries.
The large leaf tapestries introduced the idea of three dimensional space and naturalistic environments within a domestic setting. Some of the earliest surviving examples of large leaf foliate backgrounds were woven for Margaret of Austria in 1528. In that example, specifically an armorial tapestry, the leaves framed and supported the coat of arms. Symbolically the large leaves seemed to represent an untamed, prelapsarian world. The Medieval notions of chaos, ungodliness and disharmony contrasted with the more ordered millefleurs tapestries of the period.
A complete tapestry of similar design is in the collection of the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris (inv no. 38055).
Guy Delmarcel, Flemish Tapestries, London, 1999, pp.191-194, for discussion of Oudenaarde tapestries including large leaf verdures, & p.191, for the similar large leaf from The Art Institute of Chicago.
Guy Delmcarcel, Tapisseries Anciennes d'Enghien, Mons, 1980, pp.26-49, including verdures with birds, of finer weave, with the Enghien mark.
Ebeltje Hartkamp-Jonxis and Hillie Smith, European Tapestries in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2004, pp.83-84, cat.23, for a Giant-Leaf Verdure with birds and snails, Southern Netherlands, circa 1550-1575.