Art of War Tapestry: Embuscade
A Brussels tapestry panel called Ambush depicting the Earl of Orkney’s campaign. One of a series of tapestry panels known as “Arts of War” made in the 1690’s. This panel was commissioned by the Duke of Marlborough showing the war of Spanish Succession and were copied for his generals.
Tapestry, wool and silk, 8 warps per cm, Embuscade from a set of three of the Art of War, Brussels, Gaspar van der Borcht or Hieronymous le Clerc after a design by Lambert de Hondt, c. 1705-1715. The tapestry shows the mounted escort of a military convoy being ambushed by soldier hidden in the woods. In the right foreground a horse falls, throwing his rider. Beyond, men on startled horses struggle to fight off their attackers, who fire rifles from among the trees on the left hand side. In the background the end of the convoy making its way over low hills, with a rolling landscape extending into the distance. The tapestry has borders with military trophies and armour on all four sides. In the centre of the lower border there is a pile of drums and cannon which extends into the main field of the design, and the arms of the Duke of Hamilton appear at the top, surrounded by the Order of the Thistle.
Other weavings of the same design are wider and include more soldiers and trees on the left hand side, and on the right the convoy being escorted by the foreground soldiers fleeing in confusion. The three tapestries at Cliveden come from a series known as the ‘Art of War’ or the ‘Art of War I’ (to distinguish it from a later variant of the designs known as the ‘Art of War II’). The series does not describe a particular battle or conflict, but represents the typical activities of an army on campaign. The ‘Art of War’ series was produced by the Brussels entrepreneurs Gaspar van der Borcht (1675-1742) and Hieronymous Le Clerc (1643-1722), who in around 1695 engaged Lambert de Hondt to supply them with designs for eight scenes, referred to as the ‘Exercitiën van den oorloghe’ (Art of War) (Brosens in Campbell 2007a, p. 480). The first known set of ‘Art of War’ tapestries was woven for the Elector Maximilian Emmanuel of Bavaria. Their purchase is recorded in a document of 1696, which describes the subject of each scene, giving the sizes: “1. Le Campement 2. Une autre pièce représentant l’action de la Cavalerie allant à fascines 3. Une Embuscade 4. Un Pillage 5. Une Marche 6. Une pièce représentant le Fouragement 7. Une Attaque 8. Rencontre.” (Wace 1968, pp. 29-30). Seven tapestries from Maximilian Emmanuel’s set survives in Munich, and each tapestry include an anvil in the lower border inscribed with the title of the scene. Five from the set are signed LE CLERC for Hieronymous Le Clerc, and two with the name A CASTRO, the pseudonym of Gaspar van der Borcht. Three of the tapestries also include the signature ‘L DE HONDT INV. ET PINX.’, for the designer of the series, Lambert de Hondt (d. 1708). The ‘Art of War’ rapidly became one of the most popular tapestry series in Europe no doubt, as has often been pointed out, because much of the continent was at war in the years around 1700. Tapestries were commissioned by various European rulers including William III, King of England, who ordered a set of eight in 1700. In 1705 the Duke of Marlborough commissioned a set of nine ‘Art of War’ tapestries via the merchant Jan-Frans Naulaerts, to be woven by Le Clerc and Van der Borcht, and in the decade that followed sets were made for six of the generals who had served under the Duke on his European campaigns (Bapasola 2005, pp. 33-40). In the second edition of Seeley’s account of Stowe (published in 1797), the set at Blenheim set and subsequent editions for the generals are listed: “The State Dressing Room [at Stowe], hung with tapestry, worked by a subscription of Lord Cobham and other officers serving under the Duke of Marlborough; it represents the functions of the cavalry in the army of the Allies:- The great piece represents part of the Battle of Wynendael Wood. Similar sets were worked for The Duke of Marlborough, at Blenheim; Lord Cadogan, at Caversham; the Duke of Argyle, at Inverary; Lord Orkney, at Clifden; General Lumly, at Stanstead; and for General Webb.” (quoted in Wace 1968, p. 49). Of these six sets four are now untraced. The Lumley set, probably the largest of those made for the generals, containing nine pieces, was sold in 1911, and later three panels were repurchased by the family and restored to Stanstead Park. The three tapestries at Cliveden, part of the set made for the Earl of Orkney, are the only others to remain in their original location, but they too have changed hands more than once (see below). A fourth tapestry from the Earl of Orkney’s set, with the subject ‘La Marche’, is now at Brown University, but the remaining pieces are unlocated. The Cliveden ‘Art of War’ tapestries are not signed, but they were almost certainly produced by Hieronymous le Clerc and Gaspar van der Borcht, who were responsible for all the other signed editions. The date of the set is not known, but they may have been commissioned soon after 1705, when the Earl of Orkney had two wings added to his house. The set was probably woven before c. 1715, as the ‘Art of War’ seems to have ceased production at around this date. In c. 1715-20 a new series, known today as the ‘Art of War II’, was designed by Philippe de Hondt, the son of Lambert, and produced by Judocus de Vos (see Brosens in Campbell 2007, pp. 477-83). Variations occur between the different versions of the ‘Art of War’ tapestries, both in the main scenes and the borders. While the Cliveden ‘Attacque’ reproduces the version in Munich fairly exactly, the designs of ‘Campement’ and ‘Embuscade’ have been cropped significantly at the sides, and perhaps to make up for the now unbalanced composition an extra figure of a soldier smoking a pipe has been added in the foreground of ‘Campement’. The first ‘Art of War’ tapestries made for Maximilian Emmanuel were all woven with the same border of military trophies and other paraphernalia. The Cliveden tapestries however have a different border, which first appears on the set made for the Duke of Marlborough (see Wace, figs. 25-26). Still composed of military items, now each tapestry has a different border, and at the centre of each lower border there is a large pile of objects which refers specifically to the main scene. By contrast the tapestries made for the Earl of Lumley have narrow picture-frame borders. In the National Trust’s collection at Polesden Lacy there are three fragments from an unidentified weaving of the ‘Art of War’ series, comprising a section of ‘Forage’ and two sections of ‘The Camp’, with no borders (1247062, 1247063, 1247064). All three pieces are currently kept in storage. A narrow panel probably intended as an Entrefenetre (a narrow panel designed to hang between windows), its design consisting simply of two borders from the ‘Art of War’ series, is in the National Trust’s collection at Anglesey Abbey (516776). Lord George Hamilton purchased Cliveden in 1696, and from then on he and his wife lived primarily here and at their London house. Two wings were added to Cliveden in 1705, and it is possible that the tapestries were purchased at around this date. The diarist John Loveday mentioned the set in his account of a visit to Cliveden in 1734: “I know no Tapestry that excels Lord Orkney’s: ’twas made at Brussels on purpose for him; the Colours are extremely lively, yet that is the least Commendation of the Arras…” (quoted in Crathorne 1995, p. 45). They remained at Cliveden until 1795, when a fire destroyed the entire house except the wings, and it appears that the tapestries were dispersed at around this date. ‘Embuscade’, ‘Attacque’ and ‘Campement’ surfaced again in Paris in the 1890s and were purchased for William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor, who by a remarkable coincidence acquired Cliveden itself, now rebuilt, in 1893 – he would only later discover that the tapestries had been made for this very house. (Helen Wyld, 2013)
Made for George Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney (c. 1666-1737); thence by descent to Mary FitzMaurice, 4th Countess of Orkney (1755-1831), by whom presumably sold; acquired by William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor (1848-1919), in Paris, c. 1890s and brought to Cliveden; by descent to his son Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor (1879-1952); given to the National Trust along with Cliveden and its contents in 1942.
Marks and inscriptions
On garter surrounding coat of arms: NEMO ME • IMPUNE • LACESSET On bannaret below coat of arms: THROUGH
Makers and roles
Brussels , workshop possibly Gaspar van der Borcht (1675-1742), workshop possibly Hieronymous le Clerc (c. 1655-1722), workshop Lambert de Hondt (Mechelen/Malines, d. 1708), designer
Campbell, 2007a: Thomas Campbell et al., Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor, exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2007 Brosens, 2006-7: Koenraad Brosens, ‘Eighteenth-Century Brussels Tapestry and the Goût Moderne: Philipp de Hondt’s Series Contextualised’, Studies in the Decorative Arts, vol. 14, no. 1 (Fall-Winter 2006-2007), pp. 53-79 Bapasola, 2005: Jeri Bapasola, Threads of History: The Tapestries at Blenheim Palace, Lydney 2005 Lawrence B. Smith, ‘Hamilton, George, first earl of Orkney (bap. 1666, d. 1737)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 Delmarcel, 1999: Guy Delmarcel, Flemish Tapestry, Tielt 1999 Crathorne 1995: James Crathorne, Cliveden: The Place and the People, London 1995 Völker, 1976: ‘Die Tapisserieankäufe des Kurfürsten Max Emanuel und die Anfänge der Münchner Wandteppichmanufaktur’, Der Geschichte und Kunstgeschichte der Max-Emanuel-Zeit, 2vols., Munich 1976, pp. 265-73 Hefford, 1975: Wendy Hefford, ‘Some Problems concerning the ‘Art of War’ Tapestries’, Bulletin de Liaison du Centre International d’Étude des Textiles Anciens [CIETA], 41-42 (1975), pp. 101-18 Wace 1968: A J B Wace, The Marlborough Tapestries and their Relation to other Military Tapestries of the War of the Spanish Succession, London and New York, 1968