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Coronation of Marcus Aurelius

Michiel Wauters (fl. 1648 - d. 1679)

Category

Tapestries

Date

circa 1660 - 1679

Materials

Tapestry, wool and silk, 7-8 warps per cm

Measurements

2500 x 3340 mm

Place of origin

Antwerp

Order this image

Collection

Packwood House, Warwickshire

NT 557892

Summary

Tapestry, wool and silk, 7-8 warps per cm, The Coronation of Marcus Aurelius from a set of two of the History of Marcus Aurelius, workshop of Michiel Wauters after a design by Abraham van Diepenbeeck, c. 1660-1679. Marcus Aurelius kneels in the centre facing left, wearing a leopard-skin cloak over his armour. In one hand he holds a golden staff, and with the other he gestures towards a sword which lies on a red cushion in front of him. To the left two men wearing laurel wreaths stand on a low dais, holding a large book from which Marcus Aurelius reads. The book is inscribed ‘LEX ROMA NORBUS’ and a small boy illuminates its pages with a torch. Marcus Aurelius is surrounded by attendants, including a man in a red robe who holds a crown above his head. A crowd of people watch from the right hand side. In the background there are classical buildings. The borders of the tapestry have been removed.

Full description

Marcus Aurelius (121-180) was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD. He was known as the Philosopher King and is best remembered for the ‘Meditations’, a series of auto-biographical meditations on the duties of a ruler. His life appears in a number of late Roman histories but was codified in the sixteenth century by the Franciscan historian Francisco Antonia de Guevara, whose ‘Libro Aureo de Marco Aurelio Emperador’ was published in 1529, dedicated to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The ‘Libro Aureo’ (‘or ‘Golden Book’) told the story of the Philosopher King as a series of short narratives, each of which had a moral. An expanded edition of the book appeared in Barcelona in 1647 (De Mendonça 1939) and it was almost certainly this edition that provided the source for the present tapestry set. This tapestry and its companion, a fragment from ‘The Triumph of Marcus Aurelius’ (no. 557891), are part of a series telling the story of Marcus Aurelius. There was originally a third tapestry from the set at Packwood showing ‘Marcus Aurelius presenting his son to the Philosophers’, but this was stolen in 1991 (no. 557924). Although the tapestries were once thought to be English (Marillier 1930), they were in fact woven in the Antwerp workshop of Michiel Wauters (d. 1679), whose monogram appears on a number of other surviving examples. The records of the Firm Forchoudt, art dealers who exported tapestries from the Netherlands throughout Europe in the late seventeenth century, contain references to Marcus Aurelius tapestries woven by Michiel Wauters in the 1670s (Denucé 1936, pp. 373, 374, 377), and two tapestries from the series along with a set of eight cartoons appeared in Wauters’s posthumous warehouse inventory in 1679 (Denucé 1932, p. 300). An undated letter from Michiel Wauters to the art dealer Guillaum Forchoudt confirms that the ‘Marcus Aurelius’ tapestries were designed by the Antwerp painter and printmaker Abraham van Diepenbeeck (1596-1675) (Denucé 1931, p. 272). Diepenbeeck began supplying tapestry designs for the Wauters brothers in 1655, and in the following twenty years he designed at least 11 different tapestry sets for them. Diepenbeeck appears to have provided his designs in the form of drawings in ink which were then translated into cartoons by specialist cartoon painters. Three of Diepenbeeck’s drawings for the ‘Marcus Aurelius’ tapestries survive in the British Museum, the Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna and the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt (Steadman 1982, pp. 47-48). Reversed copies of three drawings, possibly made by a cartoon painter, are in the Whitworth Art Gallery. The ‘History of Marcus Aurelius’ was among the most popular of the Wauters tapestry sets, and numerous examples survive. The most complete are a set of five in the Museum of Applied Arts, Milan (Forti-Grazzini 1984, cats. 13-16, pp. 32-37, and figs. 44-56) and a set of six in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon (De Mendonça 1939). A number of tapestries from the series have been recorded in collections in Britain (Forti-Grazzini 1984, p. 33). A panel showing ‘Marcus Aurelius berating his wife Faustina’ at Sizergh Castle (998627) is one of more than thirty Wauters tapestries in National Trust houses. (Helen Wyld, 2009)

Provenance

Formerly Ferrers collection, Baddesley Clinton. Sold Sotheby's, 24 June 1932, lot 141, and bought by Graham Baron Ash for Packwood House. Given to the National Trust by Graham Baron Ash in 1941

Credit line

Packwood House, The Graham Baron Ash Collection (The National Trust)

Makers and roles

Michiel Wauters (fl. 1648 - d. 1679) Wauters, Cockx and de Wael Abraham Jansz. van Diepenbeeck ('s Hertogenbosch 1596 - Antwerp 1675)

References

Forti-Grazzini, 1984: Nello Forti-Grazzini, Museo d'arti applicate. Arazzi (Musei e Gallerie di Milano), Milan 1984, pp. 32-34 Steadman, 1982: D W Steadman, Abraham van Diepenbeeck: seventeenth century Flemish painter (PhD, Princeton University, 1973), Ann Arbor 1982 Deurne, 1973: Anne Marie Peré, Eric Duverger and Jan Walgrave, Antwerpse Wandtapijten, exh. cat. Deurne 1973 de Mendonça 1939 Maria José de Mendonça, ‘As tapeçarias da história de Marco Aurelio’, Boletim dos Museus Nacionais de Arte Antiga’, I (1939), pp. 57-67 Denucé, 1936: Jean Denucé, Antwerpsche tapijtkunst en handel, Antwerp 1936 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, 1932: Jean Denucé, De Antwerpsche “Konstkamers”: inventarissen van kunstverzamelingen te Antwerpen in de 16e en 17e eeuwen, Antwerp 1932 Denucé, 1931: Jean Denucé, Kunstuitvoer in de 17e eeuw te Antwerpen: de firma Forchoudt, Antwerp 1931 Marillier, 1930: Henry C Marillier, English Tapestries of the Eighteenth Century, London 1930, p. 59

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