Stunning 17th Century Flemish Tapestry, Country of Origin / Rug Type: Antique Belgium Tapestry, Circa Date: 17th Century – Flemish tapestries rivaled those of France in the 17th century. They reflect the artistry and refined character of Italian Renaissance paintings. These tapestries were commissioned pieces and meant to be displayed in a public place. Sometimes the subjects were meant to evoke iconography and have a meaning that was controversial or told a familiar story.
Many times, the subjects chosen were from the Bible or from classic works. Many artists drew from the Ovid and Metomophoses, a set of Latin poems written in the 9th century AD. There were over 250 of these poems.
This tapestry depicts the tale of Anthony and Cleopatra. You can see the Roman Senate members and Octavius Caesar in the background. The color blue indicates men and women of high position. The dog represents loyalty to the country, a reference to Mark Anthony’s abandonment of his duty in order to remain with Cleopatra longer.
The sword draped in red cloth is a representation of the sword that Anthony used to commit suicide upon hearing of Cleopatra’s suicide. The sword is also a representation of Mark Anthony’s duty to country, which he has temporarily cast aside, putting his attentions on his lover instead. You can see cupid with a tiny bow, having shot the arrow that began the entire affair. It may be noted that during his time, William Shakespeare’s play about Anthony and Cleopatra was extremely popular. The story was a popular subject in art and appeared in many mediums.
The artist demonstrates a high level of skill in both the ability to create realism and scale in the painting. The distant features of the painting alright skillfully rendered in blues that give an appearance of distance. The figures that are a little bit closer have a bit more color, although they are more subdued. The artist indicated the foreground by using characters that are larger and in bright, vivid, sharp colors.
These tapestries were meant to mimic painting styles of the time and used many of the same techniques. It was not unusual for a highly skilled painter to design the cartoon for these tapestries. This is an absolutely fascinating piece and would be the pinnacle of any collection. It is an exceptionally fine condition and would be the perfect addition to a museum or private collection.