Private collection, United States
This magnificent tapestry is part of a recently identified set, dispersed amongst two Spanish families, from the same series of cartoons and signed by the same weaver, Jan Raes. Between 1580 and 1650 the Brussels workshops of Raes produced suites of tapestries for the most important private clients and heads of state. Three successive proprietors were named Jan, sometimes making it difficult to distinguish between them, but it was Jan Raes II (1570 – 1643) who was responsible for the series in question. The cartoons for these works were made after sketches by Jacob Savery (Courtai c.1545 – 1602 Amsterdam) who was known for his precise zoological observations.
Of the five surviving pieces from this set, the proportions of two are landscape whilst the other three are nearly square, including the present panel. Each of the works depict a formal Renaissance garden with figurative columns in the foreground supporting arbors. Related examples can be found in the Miguel Borondo collection, Madrid and in Notre Dame de la Couture, Le Mans. Another similar work was woven for Cardinal Alessandro Pertetti di Montalto (1571 – 1623) in Rome but is now lost.
Our tapestry shows an arbor supporting dense foliage and a variety of flowers under which are various birds of exceptional quality and detail. The scene opens onto a beautiful garden with fountains and classical buildings. The borders contain eight superb cartouches of landscape scenes with animals, birds and mythological creatures.
A double pergola supported by caryatids in the form of satyrs, figures with flutes and tambourines, fills the central panel. This type of pergola with caryatid columns is based on an earlier Flemish design for the famous series of Metamorphoses of Vertumnus and Pomona, made for the Habsburg family in 1546, today part of the collection in Madrid and Vienna. A reweaving of the series was made in Brussels around 1600.
Hans Vredemann de Vries (1526 – 1609) was the first designer who made a publication concerning these garden designs, the Hortorum viridariorumque elegantes & multiplices formae: Ad architectonicae artis normam affabre delineatae, published in Antwerp in 1583.
In exceptional condition and with a wonderfully preserved colour palate, this timeless work complements both traditional and contemporary interiors and art collections.