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Paul Preaching at Athens

Philip Wauters (fl. 1660 - d. 1679)

Category

Tapestries

Date

circa 1670 - circa 1690

Materials

Tapestry, wool and silk

Measurements

2.42 m (H); 4.10 m (W)

Place of origin

Antwerp

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Collection

Great Chalfield, Wiltshire (Accredited Museum)

NT 539493

Summary

Tapestry, wool and silk, Paul Preaching at Athens from a set of four Acts of the Apostles, Philip Wauters, Antwerp, c. 1670-1690. Paul stands on a raised platform in the centre, preaching with his arms outstretched. In the foreground a crowd of people gathers to watch, their backs to the viewer. There is an elegant Roman couple in the right foreground. The common soldiers appear shocked and the horse on the left is getting bored and chews the shield of the soldier in front of him. In the side borders there are putti carrying garlands, and festoons of fruit and flowers hang from the upper edge over the main field. The tapestry is woven with no lower border. There are brown galloons around all four sides. The warp count on this tapestry is 7 warps/cm.

Full description

The subject of the tapestry is taken from chapter 17 of the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles. Paul went to preach in Agora before the judicial council of Athens. He told the Athenians that they were too superstitious, and that he would reveal to them the ‘Unknown god’ which they worshipped. The four tapestries at Great Chalfield Manor come from a larger series of the Acts of the Apostles, the subjects drawn from the New Testament book of that name. The series was designed and made in Antwerp in the last quarter of the seventeenth century. Henry Marillier has identified a total of ten subjects in the series: 'Christians Bringing Gifts to the Apostles', 'The Beautiful Gate' (or ‘The Healing of the Lame Man’), 'Saint Paul Escaping from Damascus', 'Saint Philip Baptising the Eunach', 'The Conversion of Saint Paul', 'The Shipwreck at Malta', 'Saint Paul Delivered from Prison by the Angel', 'Christ's Charge to Peter', 'Paul Preaching at Athens' and 'The Sacrifice at Lystra' (Marillier 1930, pp. 4-6). The 'Acts of the Apostles' series was clearly inspired by the celebrated series of the same subject designed by Raphael for Pope Leo X in 1515-16 (see Evans 2010). Raphael's 'Acts' were probably the most famous tapestry designs in the world in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and were still extremely popular in the 1670s, with numerous workshops in the Southern Netherlands, France and England weaving versions of the designs. The present series was probably conceived to capitalise on the popularity of Raphael's 'Acts', and whilst some of the scenes are entirely new, others re-use Raphael's designs with little alteration. The designer of the series is identified in a letter of 1676 as Abraham van Diepenbeeck (1596-1675), an Antwerp artist who worked extensively as a tapestry designer for Philip Wauters, who produced the 'Acts' tapestries, and his brother Michiel (Denucé 1931, p. 199). Van Diepenbeeck's preparatory drawing for 'Christians Bringing Gifts to the Apostles' is in the British Museum (Steadman 1974, pp. 48, 63). One of the tapestries at Great Chalfield Manor, ‘Christians Bringing Gifts’, bears in its right hand galloon the 'PW' monogram of the Antwerp tapestry entrepreneur Philip Wauters (fl. 1660-1679). Many other weavings of the designs include the same mark including tapestries at Westminster Abbey, Boughton House and Parham Park, as well as further examples listed by Marillier. The correspondence of the Wauters and firm mentions sets of eight 'Acts of the Apostles' tapestries in 1674, 1675, 1676 and 1682 (Denucé 1931, pp. 189, 195, 196, 199, 211), and a set of eight cartoons for the series was listed in Michiel Wauters's will in 1679 (Denucé 1932, p. 302; Crick-Kuntziger 1935, p. 36). The designs were also copied, in reverse, by the Oudenaarde tapissier Abel Reggelbrugghe (1624-1694), and a set probably made by him is in the National Trust’s collection at Speke Hall (no. 1197404). (Helen Wyld, 2013)

Provenance

Bought by Robert Fuller from his cousin Allen Stevens between 1939 and 1945; inherited by Robert Fuller’s daughter Mary Elizabeth Fuller OBE (1916-1996); given by her to the National Trust along with part of the contents of the house in 1974

Makers and roles

Philip Wauters (fl. 1660 - d. 1679), workshop Abraham Jansz. van Diepenbeeck ('s Hertogenbosch 1596 - Antwerp 1675) , designer

References

Marillier, 1930: Henry C Marillier, English Tapestries of the Eighteenth Century, London 1930 Denucé, 1931: Jean Denucé, Kunstuitvoer in de 17e eeuw te Antwerpen: de firma Forchoudt, Antwerp 1931 Denucé, 1932: Jean Denucé, De Antwerpsche “Konstkamers”: inventarissen van kunstverzamelingen te Antwerpen in de 16e en 17e eeuwen, Antwerp 1932 Crick-Kuntziger, 1935: Marthe Crick-Kuntziger, 'Contribution à l'histoire de la tapisserie anversoise: les marques et les tentures des Wauters', in Revue belge d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'art, 5, 1935, pp. 35-44 Denucé, 1936: Jean Denucé, Antwerpsche tapijtkunst en handel, Antwerp 1936 Wingfield Digby, 1959: George Wingfield Digby, ‘Tapestries by the Wauters Family for the English Market’, in Het Herfsttij van de Vlaamse Tapijtkunst, Brussels 1959, pp. 227-244 Steadman, 1982: D W Steadman, Abraham van Diepenbeeck: seventeenth century Flemish painter (PhD, Princeton University, 1973), Ann Arbor 1982 Hefford, 1992: Wendy Hefford, 'Ralph Montagu's Tapestries', in Tessa Murdoch (ed.), Boughton House, the English Versailles, London 1992 Evans 2010: Evans et al (ed.), Raphael: Cartoons and Tapestries for the Sistine Chapel, London 2010

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