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Knight with the Arms of Jean de Daillon

Guillaume Desremaulx (fl. 1468-d. 1483)

Category

Tapestries

Date

circa 1477 - circa 1480

Materials

Tapestry, wool and silk, 5-6 warps per cm

Measurements

3.57 m (H); 2.92 m (W)

Place of origin

Tournai

Order this image

Collection

Montacute House, Somerset (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Montacute House, Somerset, South West, National Trust

NT 598106

Caption

Five hundred years ago, tapestries were the status symbols of the wealthy across Europe, covering the walls of palaces, chambers and cathedrals, and owned by kings, courtiers, clergy and anyone else fabulously rich. These were the great art of their day, woven in wool and silk threads and made by outstanding craftsman with a level of aesthetic and technical skill long since lost. Imagine the wow factor of this chivalric knight in his shining armour, his standard fluttering in the breeze and his horse richly decorated in red and gold brocade, all set against a dark blue ground, scattered with hundreds of tiny star-like flowers known as millefleurs. An extraordinary amount of surviving documentation makes this tapestry extremely important in the history of 15th-century Netherlandish production. It was part of a set commissioned around 1477 by Jean de Daillon, a close confident of the future Louis XI of France, although the city of Tournai picked up the final bill, presenting the tapestries to him as a gift for favours bestowed on the city. The Montacute tapestry has been significantly altered, possibly between the first and second world wars when a boom in the value of medieval European tapestries led to some deliberately deceptive restorations. It’s a small snapshot of what the full set of tapestries would have looked like, all 313.4 square metres of them. That’s an impressive amount of wall covering!

Summary

Tapestry, wool and silk, 5-6 warps per cm, Knight with the Arms of Jean de Daillon, Guillaume Desremaulx, Tournai, c. 1477-81. A knight on horseback wearing armour and carrying a standard, on a dark blue ground covered with flowers. The horse wears a richly decorated caparison resembling red and gold brocade, with a wide red band around the bottom where the initials ‘IE’, tied together with a cord, are repeated. Bells hang from the bottom of the caparison and from a strap or cropper around the horse’s neck. The horse wears a gold plate to protect its forehead and this is decorated with red and white feathers, its bridle and wide reins are blue, and there is a gold cabochon on its back. The knight wears armour trimmed with gold, long spurs, a sword round his waist, and a helmet with red white and blue feathers, and carries a red and white striped pole supporting a fluttering standard. The standard is decorated with a red heraldic wolf or tiger and the initials ‘IE’ repeated, in the same form as they appear on the caparison. In the upper left hand corner there is a coat of arms. The dark blue ground of the tapestry is scattered with hundreds of tiny flowers, many of which are identifiable, including poppies, daffodils, scillas, wallflowers, thistles, honeysuckle and fritillaries. A narrow red galloon has been applied around the outer edge of the tapestry. The tapestry has seen extensive reweaving especially around the edges, including most of the horse’s legs.

Full description

The tapestry was commissioned between c. 1477 and 1479 by Jean de Daillon, Seignure de Lude (1413-1481), whose coat of arms appears in the upper left hand corner. The tapestry were ordered from Guillaume Desremaulx in Tournai and was originally part of a set of millefleurs tapestries with Daillon’s arms, but today only the panel at Montacute survives. Although the tapestries seem to have been commissioned by Daillon himself, in 1480 the city of Tournai paid for them and presented them to him as a gift, apparently in recognition of ‘certain favours’. The tapestries were sufficiently complete by April 1480 to be used as models for another set commissioned by the magistrates of the city of Tournai. The set had still not been delivered when Daillon died in 1481, and was finally sent to his widow and her sons in 1483. Jean de Daillon was born into a family of minor nobility in 1413, and was a childhood friend of the future king of France Louis XI. His closeness to the Dauphin led to his being banished by Charles VII in 1446. In 1452 he left Louis to return to Charles’s court. Meanwhile in 1459, he married as his second wife Marie de Laval, by whom he had two sons. Charles finally died in 1461 and Daillon was reconciled with Louis in 1466, after which he became once again a close confident, earning the nickname ‘Maître Jean des habilités’. According to the memoires of Philippe de Commynes, he was trusted by the king with many important offices, and also managed to enrich himself by acquiring or being given lands and titles. He was made Governor of the Dauphiné in 1474 and participated in the siege of Arras in 1477, which led to his being named as the King’s lieutenant in the town after its capture. In 1479 he was made bailiff and Governor of Touraine in north-western France, and he died in 1481 (De Vaivre 1973; Salet 1973, pp. 122-4). Although the tapestry has been well known since the 1910s when it was loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, its subject and the circumstances of its commission were not known until the 1970s. Prior to this some scholars that it represented one of the Nine Worthies, and the coat of arms was assumed to be mythical. Its form is: Quarterly, 1 and 4 azure, a cross engrailed argent; 2 and 3, gules fretty or, a canton argent charged with a crescent sable; and as an inshield, gules, six escutcheons or. In 1973 Jean-Bernard de Vaivre was able to pinpoint the coat of arms to Jean I de Daillon. He showed that the inshield, which belongs to the Mathefelon family whose lands Daillon acquired in the 1440s, was first used by Daillon in 1451; and that the patron of the tapestry could not have been one of Daillon’s three sons, as had previously been suggested (by Kjellberg 1963), as they all bore different arms (De Vaivre 1973). De Vaivre also noted that Daillon had been made governor of the tapestry-producing town of Arras in 1477, and speculated that he may have commissioned or been given the tapestry at this point. Shortly afterwards however the tapestry was linked to references among the records of the city of Tournai, first published in the 1890s, of a commission by Jean de Daillon to the tapissier Guillaume Desremaulx (Salet 1973, pp. 122-4; Soil 1892, pp. 384-5; De Vaivre 1974). In 1480 an order was made by the city authorities “A Wuillaume Desreumaulx, tapissier, qui avoit marchandé à M. de Lude gouverneur du Dauffiné de lui faire une tapisserie de verdure pour une chamber, de laquelle tapisserie a été fait don et présent de par la ville audit seigneur de Lude en rémunération de plusiers plaisirs et amitiés que par cidevant il a faits a icelle ville… [To Wuillaume Desreumaulx, tapissier, who had contracted with M de Lude Governor of the Dauphiné to make him a verdure tapestry for a chamber, which tapestry has been given as a gift by the city to the said seigneur de Lude in remuneration for numerous favours and friendly gestures that he has made to this city] (De Vaivre 1974, p. 18). The total price of the set was given as 70 livres. This order indicates that the tapestries had been commissioned by Daillon and that subsequently the city of Tournai decided to pay for them as a gift to him. References to ‘une chambre’ and plusiers et diverses pièces’ confirm that there was a set, not just one tapestry. The document goes on to specify that the total size of the chamber was 457 square ells, that the price was 4 sous per square ell, and that the contract had specified that silk was to be used. There is then a notice to remunerate one Jerome de Callonne, who had been charged with supervising the work which had taken place “en plusieurs et divers ouvroirs” [in several diverse workshops], and with making sure that the materials used were of sufficient quality (De Vaivre 1974, p. 18). The tapestries must have been well under way by April 1480, when the magistrate of Tournai ordered a tapestry set to present to the Sire de Baudricourt, specifying that it should be “une tapisserie de verdure à soye aussi bonne et en telle valleur que celle de Monseigneur Dulude a fait faire en ceste ville…” [a verdure tapestry of silk as good and as costly as the one that Monseigneur Dulude had made in this city] (De Vaivre 1974, p. 19). The next mention of the tapestry comes in 1482, the year after Daillon’s death, when letters were sent by his widow Marie Laval asking that the tapestries be delivered to Pasquier Grenier – well-known to historians as an entrepreneur trading in wine and tapestries in Tournai – on behalf of her and her children. Later, on 8 April 1483, the Tournai councillors noted that the tapestries had been delivered to the Bishop of Sées, the brother of Daillon’s widow (De Vaire 1974, pp. 18-19). The remarkable amount of detail that we have on the circumstances of the commission makes the Montacute ‘Knight with the Arms of Jean de Daillon’ extremely important for the history of fifteenth-century Netherlandish production. It is one of only a handful of pieces that can be linked to a specific commission and therefore a specific production centre, and it is the only fifteenth-century tapestry that can definitely be attributed to the city of Tournai. Guillaume Desremaulx, named as the producer of the tapestry, is first recorded living in the parish of Saint-Nicolas-de-Bruille in Tournai in 1468. In 1481 he sold to Gilles Descamaing a chamber of tapestries with silk of “l’histoire de Tebbes” and other panels, and the following year he contracted to deliver to Pierre Rogier “deux tappis de l’histoire de Joseph”. He died in 1483 (De Vaivre 1974, p. 19). As mentioned already the total size of the original ‘chamber’ of tapestries to which the ‘Knight with the Arms of Jean de Daillon’ belonged was 457 square ells. The Flemish ell, the common measurement for tapestry not just in the Netherlands but throughout Europe in this period, equalled 68.58 cm, so the total area of the set would have been some 313.4 square metres. The Montacute tapestry today measures 3.57 x 2.92 metres, or 4.26 x 5.20 ells – that is 22.15 square ells (although it has been significantly altered and may originally have been larger). This indicates, astonishingly, that the complete set would have been around twenty times as large as the surviving piece. Since the outer parts of the tapestry have been rewoven we have no way of knowing its original size, and it may originally have been part of a much larger piece. There are no other surviving examples of fifteenth-century Netherlandish tapestries representing a lone knight on horseback. The most direct comparison is a set of tapestries made for Pierre de Rohan, Maréchal de Gié (1451-1513) who, like Jean de Daillon, was a close courtier of Louis XI. Rohan’s tapestries are now lost but they are recorded in a series of five watercolours made for the French antiquarian Rogier de Gaignières, who collected images of medieval works of art that included heraldry. The five tapestries celebrated the progress of their patron’s military career, and show Rohan variously as a man at arms, later carrying a flag, next with a standard, then as a general and finally as a marshal. The image of Rohan with a standard is strikingly similar to the Montacute tapestry. He appears in armour and on horseback, holding a standard with heraldic devices – de Gié’s personal badge of cockle-shell and a pilgrim’s staff, and his initials PR. As at Montacute the horse walks from right to left and wears feathers on its forehead and an elaborate caparison, although here the caparison bears Rohan’s coat of arms. The horse’s feet rest on an island covered with flowers and the background is woven to imitate paned cloth and scattered with cockle-shell-and-staff badges. There is a border with a floral band surrounded by a twisted ribbon (De Vaivre 1974, pp. 20-21; Bertrand 2002, p. 28). Although it is dangerous to make assumptions based on one single comparison, he imagery of Rohan’s tapestry set suggests that the Montacute tapestry only ever included one figure, and that the rest of the chamber may have represented him in different guises. Certain elements in the iconography of Daillon’s tapestry remain mysterious however. The heraldic wolf or tiger is not seen elsewhere in relation to Jean de Daillon, and does not figure in his family’s heraldry. It was probably a personal badge used by Jean himself: such badges were commonly used on standards of this sort, for example on Rohan’s tapestries. The letters ‘IE’ that appear on the standard and the caparison are harder to interpret. While the ‘PR’ that appears on Rohan’s tapestries is obviously the patron’s initials, the ‘IE’ has eluded interpretation. The ‘I’ may stand for Jean, but Daillon’s surname did not begin with E. The cord tying the initials together would usually suggest a union between two people, however neither of Daillon’s wives’ names began with the letter E. De Vaivre considers but rejects the possibility that ‘IE’ simply indicated the beginning of ‘Jean’, and suggests that he may have had a now unknown middle name. Similar initials appear on a number of other fifteenth and early sixteenth century tapestries, often in pairs tied together with ribbons or cords, and in many cases it has been impossible to unravel their meaning. For example the letters ‘AE’ that appear tied together on ‘Hunts of the Unicorn’ tapestries in the Metropolitan Museum have been the subject of protracted but inconclusive debate (see Cavallo 1993, pp. 318-21). Any conclusions on the precise iconography of the Montacute tapestry must be tentative due its physical condition. Early photographs reveal that the lower legs and tail of the horse, and the right hand end of the standard, were completely rewoven between c. 1935 and 1946, and that prior to this restoration the tapestry was significantly larger than it is at present. A photograph preserved in the Marillier Tapestry Archive (Victoria and Albert Museum), and also reproduced by De Vaivre (1973), shows the tapestry in its earlier state, with the horse’s lower legs and tail taking a different form, the ends of the standard pointed rather than rounded, and perhaps an extra foot of millefleurs ground at either side, and slightly less at the top. The earliest photograph to show the tapestry in its current state was published in 1946 (Adams-Acton 1946). From the early photograph it is impossible to tell whether the now lost legs, standard and outer edge of the tapestry were original, or were themselves reweavings of elements that had been lost much earlier. Certainly, physical examination of the tapestry reveals at least two phases of major restoration, and evidence of other more minor interventions. The entire lower part of the tapestry, up to around 70 cm from the bottom, and around 45 cm on the right hand side, appear to be entirely rewoven, corroborating the evidence of early photographs. This phase of restoration seems to have occurred before 1946 but probably after 1935, when the tapestry was acquired by Malcolm Stewart. There are also a number of areas of differential fading which assume linear forms, as though they are following old joins. This phase of restoration must have occurred prior to c. 1935 as it is visible in photographs of that date. The most disturbing of these occurs around the coat of arms in the upper left hand corner. Not only does a rectangular outline appear to have been rewoven around the lower and right-hand sides of the arms (the upper and left and sides follow the edge of the tapestry), there is a discernible break in the pattern of the millefleurs ground in these areas as well. This is clearly visible in recent photographs of the tapestry. This would seem to suggest that the arms have somehow been attached to the rest of the tapestry but without conducting more detailed analysis it is impossible to know exactly what the join indicates. It may be that the coat of arms was always part of the panel with the knight, but that the tapestry was reduced in size and the arms moved so that they would not be lost. The warp count and the materials and colour of the arms are entirely in keeping with the rest of the tapestry. It is also possible that the arms were originally part of another tapestry in a larger set, the rest of which is now lost. Since the restoration occurred before c. 1935, and therefore long before the arms had been identified, it seems improbable that they were inserted to add value to the tapestry. However, it is known that the period between the wars saw an enormous boom in the sale value of medieval European tapestries, and unscrupulous dealers and repair workshops are known to have carried out extensive and sometimes deliberately deceptive restoration to early tapestries in this period. (Helen Wyld, 2013)

Provenance

Commissioned by Jean de Daillon, Seignure de Lude (1413-1480) from Guillaume Desremaulx of Tournai in c. 1477-79; delivered to the bishop of Sees, brother of Daillon’s widow, in 1483; on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1916-1919; Collection of Sir Edward Speyer; bought by Sir Malcolm Stewart, 1935; bequeathed by Stewart to the National Trust for Montacute House, as part of a collection of six tapestries

Marks and inscriptions

Repeated on standard and on horse’s caparison: initials ‘I E’ tied together with a cord

Makers and roles

Guillaume Desremaulx (fl. 1468-d. 1483), workshop Tournai , workshop

References

Bertrand, 2002: Pascal-François, ‘Tapisseries de Flandres et autres tentures parmi les dessins d’archéologie de Rogier de Gaignières’, in K. Brosens (ed.), Flemish Tapestry in European and American Collections, Turnhout 2003, pp. 23-35 Campbell, 2002: Thomas Campbell (ed.), Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence, exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2002 Fisher, 1993: Celia Fisher, “The Montacute Tapestry: History, heraldry and horticulture”. Apollo June 1993. Cavallo, 1993: Adolpho S Cavallo, Medieval Tapestries in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1993 De Vaivre, 1974, Jean-Bernard de Vaivre, ‘L’origine Tournaisienne de la tapisserie de Jean de Daillon’ Archivum Heraldicum, vol. 88, no. 2-3 (1974), pp. 18-21 Salet, 1973: François Salet (ed.), Chefs d’Oeuvre de la Tapisserie, exh. cat. Grand Palais, Paris, 1973-4 De Vaivre, 1973: Jean-Bernard de Vaivre, ‘La tapisserie de Jean de Daillon’, Archivum Heraldicum, vol. 87, no. 2-3 (1973), pp. 18-25 Kjellberg, 1963: P Kjellberg, ‘La Tapisserie Gothique, sujet de constants recherches: nouveaux trésors divulgués’, Connaissance des Arts, no. 142 (December 1963) Adams-Acton, 1946: Murray Adams-Acton, ‘Gothic Tapestries in the Collection of Sir P. Malcolm Stewart, Bt.’, The Connoisseur, June 1946, pp. 71-72 Soil, 1892: Eugène Soil, Les Tapisseries de Tournai, les tapissiers et les hautelissier de cette ville…, Tournai 1892

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