A Luminous Beautiful 17th Century Antique German Biblical Tapestry Depicting David And Abigail, Country Of Origin: Germany, Circa Date: 17th Century – This magnificent 17th-century German tapestry depicts the biblical story of David and Abigail, a significant story in the Torah / Old Testament of the Bible. In the early 17th century, France and the Netherlands dominated the tapestry market, creating works that continue to make their mark in the world of fine art to this very day. Germany did not enter the market until 1604, but its works hold an important place in tapestry history. This antique German tapestry depicting David And Abigail is a magnificent example of German weaving works and would make an excellent addition to any private collection.
The first tapestry manufacturers in Germany were operated by Flemish designers and weavers. This is why you can see similarities in style, color, and design. For instance, the treatment of plant elements and depictions of the drape of the garments are reminiscent of the iconic Flemish tapestries. The first tapestry works closed after only 11 years of operation, but it set the stage for the rise of German tapestries using Flemish traditions.
An important event in the history of German tapestries took place in the late 17th century. In 1685, the Edict of Nantes was revoked, and many weavers from the French Aubusson factory in France fled to Germany seeking refuge to avoid religious persecution, as the Flemish weavers had done earlier. Many of them were employed by the workshop of the elector Frederick William of Brandenburg in Berlin. These tapestries were produced almost solely for the palaces built by the elector’s son, King Frederick I of Prussia. The factory would close after his death.
This biblical tapestry does not have the level of detail in the design that you usually find in late 16th-century Flemish or French Aubusson tapestries. It mimics the Verdure style with an abundance of greenery and a formal building in the back. Verdure tapestries often have abundant animal life tucked into hidden places, as you can see in this piece.
Verdure tapestries were filled with symbolism that had hidden meaning and provided depth to the story. For instance, scenes depicting King David were sometimes a reference to King Charles V, and the stories were a comparison between these two historical figures. David was often depicted as warlike, and the story in this tapestry demonstrates a time when David showed his warlike side, suggesting the popular public opinion of King Charles V. in this way, these tapestries served as a type of political commentary.
Biblical and religious weaving themes were common, and this one depicts a famous scene between David and Abigail. The story takes place shortly after King Saul’s death. Saul’s troops continue to pursue David’s troops. David’s men survive by protecting small villages, and in return, receive food, supplies and information about King Saul’s troops.
David and his men come upon a small village, in what is modern day Israel, on the day when sheep were being shorn. It is a day of celebration and sharing. David sends his men to ask Nabal, a wealthy man, to see if they would help out with food and shelter for a time. David’s request was met with an insult when Nabal calls David nothing more than a runaway slave and refuses to acknowledge his anointing by God. Nabal refuses to give David’s men food or help them.
When David hears the news, he tells his men to attack the village and destroy Nabal and his entire household. Word got back to Nabal and Abigail, his wife, decided to take action in an attempt to save the village from an attack by David. Nabal was stubborn and would not be moved to help David and the troops.
Abigail quickly gathered 200 loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, 60 pounds of roasted grain, raisins, and pressed figs. She loaded them onto donkeys and headed out to meet David and his troops. She found them as they were on the way to attack the village.
Abigail prostrated herself in front of David. She apologized for the actions of her husband and begged forgiveness. She made quite a speech, reminding David that he is about to act out of vengeance and not in service to God. David accepts her apology and thanks her for preventing him from committing this atrocity over the actions of the fool, Nabal. Ten days later, Nabal dies of natural causes. Abigail would then become David’s wife.
This antique tapestry depicts this fateful scene and an act of bravery by Abigail. You can see the basket of fruits, wineskins, and other gifts for David and his men. The clothing is the style of 17the century Flemish tapestries and represents more contemporary clothing, rather than those that would have been worn at the time when the story would have taken place. This gives us clues to the status and similarities of the people in the tapestry to real-life 16th-century figures.
This is a beautiful work and a rare piece for a biblical or Judaica collector. During the 17th century, tapestries, such as this one, were often used as part of religious celebrations or other special ceremonies. This biblical tapestry is small and was most likely part of a series of small square tapestries that were used as pillow covers or, if they were attached at some point, they would have been part of a larger scene where each square told another part of the story. The colors are beautiful, and it represents an important piece of weaving history. This piece will be a treasured part of your collection.