- Place of origin:
Netherlands (southern, made)
- Materials and Techniques:
- Credit Line:
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax payable on the estate of the 10th Duke of Devonshire and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Tapestries, Room 94
In the 15th century, tapestries provided colour, warmth and draught-proofing in bleak rooms with stone walls. Those with narratives also provided entertainment and interest for the household and guests at a time of low literacy, when images were extremely important.
This is one example of a group of four hunting tapestries. Until they came to the Museum in 1957, the group belonged to the Dukes of Devonshire. Large tapestries were not produced in England in the 15th century and had to be imported. A number of towns or cities in the southern Netherlands had workshops and it was in one of these that the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries were made. The earliest history of the tapestries is unknown but they were identified as being at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire in the 16th century, from an inventory compiled in 1601 for the Countess of Shrewsbury. This celebrated and four-times married noblewoman had Hardwick Hall built and furnished to her taste. The hunt was a particularly powerful theme and would have been a familiar pastime to many of the high-born individuals and families who owned tapestries.
The composition is made up of numerous scenes that each make sense separately. This device was often used in tapestry design so that if, as often happened, a tapestry were cut up or altered - for example, to go round a doorway or fit a smaller room - the narrative would still make sense.
Tapestry showing figures participating in falconry
Place of Origin
Netherlands (southern, made)
Materials and Techniques
Height: 445 cm, Width: 1075.9 cm
Object history note
Cut into strips nad arbitrarily joined as curtains, these rare fifteenth century tapestries were discovered in the Long Gallery at Hardwick Hall in the late 19th century. The Duke of Devonshire sent the pieces to this Museum in 1900 for examination and reassembly, and they were sewn together as four large hangings by the Ladies' Decorative Needlework Society in Sloane Street. In need of cleaning and repair by 1950, The Deer Hunt was washed and restored, with much reweaving, in Paris. On the death of the 10th Duke of Devonshire, the tapestries were acquired for the Nation. Between 1958 and 1966 the other three pieces were cleaned and restored at a tapestry workshop in Haarlem.
Few tapestries of this size and date have survived centuries of use. It is not known where these particular tapestries were made; but so many fine tapestries of this period came from Arras that the name became synonmous with tapestry in England. The four pieces actually come from slightly differen sets, as can most clearly be seen in comparing the height of the Boar and Bear Hund and the scale of its figures with the adjacent Falconry. (Taken directly from the introductory label taken down in August 2006)
Falconry, one of the Devonshire Tapestries. 15th century.
Labels and date
Tapestry formerly owned by the Dukes of Devonshire
Episodes in the hunt are interspersed with scenes of rural life. Three of the horse-trappings are decorated with the letter 'M'. This could have been the initial of the tapestry's first owner's name, but is more likely to have no personal significance, possibly being a devout allusion to the Virgin Mary. It is not known for whom this tapestry ws made. In the sixteenth century all four tapestries now known as the 'Devonshire Hunts' may have belonged to the Dukes' ancestress, the Countess of Shrewsbury, probably being part of the 'Tapestrie hanginges with personages and forrest work Fyftene feet and a half deep' noted in the 1601 inventory of Hardwick Hall. This tapestry is now only 14.5 feet deep, but has clearly lost some foliage and plants at top and bottom.
Museum number T.202-1957 [c. 2003]
Wall coverings; Tapestry
Textiles and Fashion Collection