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Guy Delmarcel

The Passion Tapestries of Margaret of Austria (c.1518-1524) - New Data and Documents


In 1992, I published an article in Dutch, of which the English translation follows here. The illustrations could not be reproduced on this website. Those who want to get a photocopy of them, may contact me ( In a Postscript, I summarize the further research and publications about this topic since 1992, adding some personal remarks to them.
Antwerp, 15 November 2005

Published first as: ‘De Passietapijten van Margareta van Oostenrijk (ca.1518-1524). Nieuwe gegevens en documenten’, Revue belge d’archéologie et d’histoire de l’art LXI (1992): 127-160.
Translated from the Dutch by Catharina Pardaens, 2005.


This contribution aims to cast a closer look on a series of tapestries, part of a “Passion of Christ” cycle, ordered and bought by Margaret of Austria in Brussels and Mechelen between ca. 1518 and 1524, and preserved in the collection of the Spanish court in Madrid. Known archive pieces will be presented here correctly and comprehensively for the fist time. Some thus far unknown documents will be added, shedding new light on the genesis of this group of tapestries. In addition, we will explore some questions concerning the original function and the imagery sources of these weavings.(1)

When on July the 7th of 1507 Margaret of Austria sets up court in Mechelen, she brings with her a rather considerable collection of tapestries. These pre-eminent symbols of wealth and princely dignity had come into her possession, mostly by way of gifts, at the foreign courts where she had resided for the most part. Returning from France in 1493, after ten years of futile waiting for a royal marriage, she already owned three chambers of “verdures”, “voleries” and “boquillons”, as well as dorsals and cushions.(2) A second marriage, to the infant Don Juan, did come about in 1495 but two years later, on October the 4th of 1497, the young prince died in Burgos. When Margaret leaves Spain in September of 1499, she brings home with her not only the 17 tapestries already belonging to her (“que trajo de Flandes”), but what’s more another 15 wall hangings, mostly of religious inspiration, that were given to her as a departing gift by Isabella of Castile: a Life of Alexander, Josuah, the Holy Women, Saint Helen, the Credo and the Sacraments.(3) Her third marriage, to Philibert the duke of Savoy, was her happiest one but ended likewise with the premature death of the groom in 1504. Once again, Margaret inherited a good deal of “vaisselle, tapisserie, joyaux et autres meubles”, the subjects of which were not listed in detail.(4)

As regent of the Habsburg Netherlands, Margaret would pursue an active policy of encouragement for the arts, and, as can be observed, she used to spread her orders very diplomatically over the different weaving centres. From the city of Tournai she received as a gift a chamber of six pieces of the “Cité des Dames” in 1513, and between 1507 and 1514 she bought a chamber of “Wild Men” from Arnould Poissonnier in the same place.(5) In Bruges, she bought tapestries in 1509, as well as two verdures and twelve pieces “à chardons”.(6) Between 1523 and 1528 she relied several times on workshops from Enghien for the weaving of heraldic tapestries which she donated afterwards to churches and monasteries in Poligny, Ghent and Liège.(7)

Being the leading production centre of tapestries, Brussels too could not be omitted from this list, and the tapestries we will be examining here bear witness to this fact in a most splendid way.(8) Carefully preserved for centuries in the collection of the Spanish kings, who inherited them directly through Charles V and Philip II, they represent one of the most refined examples of craftsmanship from the Brussels workshop during its first great period of florescence.(9) Though numerous authors have mentioned and described them, confusion has arisen regarding the genesis of these works and their connection to other contemporary series. It will be this contribution’s primary aim to bring some clarity to these topics.

The Documents

On September 1st of 1520, Margaret of Austria enters into an arrangement with maistre Pierre de Pannemaker, tapissier, demeurant en la ville de Bruxelles concerning the manufacturing, within the year, of two tapestries of the Passion (Document 1).(10) The document is signed by both contracting parties as well as by Simon de Quincy, the regent’s steward, and by Bernard van Orley, a painter. Pannemaker is to manufacture both the ordered textiles to the same standard of material quality (estoffe) as two others he had previously sold to the regent. The subjects of these four tapestries – the two already delivered and the newly ordered ones – are not mentioned. The price is fixed at 38 guilders per square yard. Payment is spread over a number of dates, as was customary. A down payment of 200 guilders is handed to him then and there, for the purchase of gold and silver thread. The weaver also undertakes to pay the patrons, thus becoming the owner of the designs and/or cartoons.

One year on, in September 1521, Pannemaker receives an interim payment of 800 pounds for gold and silver thread, this on top of the 250 he had already been paid (Document 3). Finally, in September 1522, the two exquises pieces de tapisserie faictes de fil d’or et de soie, ordered two years before, are delivered to the regent and paid for by her (Document 4). At this, Pannemaker received the balance of 695 pounds of a total amount of 1995 pounds, which indeed corresponds with a price of 38 pounds (or guilders) a yard for a total of 52,2 yards. This time the subjects of the finished textiles are described: l’histoire a assez grans personnaiges comment nostre seigneur Jhesuscrist est au jardin d’olivet priant Dieu son Père et comment il porte la croix pour y recepvoir mort et passion.

On August 23rd of 1523, one year after the delivery of the two costly Passion tapestries, Margaret drafts a new contract with Pannemaker, which can be deducted from the payment of this order in October-December 1524 (Document 5). This involves a ciel de tapisserie avec les gouttières, hence a canopy, about which is stated: contenans ensemble XVI aulnes, de mesme estouffe que les deux riches et exquises pièces de tapisseries, faictes de fil dor et de soye qu’il luy a naguères faictes et livrées en ses mains, lequel ciel est pour servir à lad. riche tapisserie. The total price of 604 pounds for 40 yards is laid down, averaging 38 pounds a yard, the same amount as paid for the Passion tapestries.

All of these tapestries are listed and described in an appendix to the inventory of Margaret’s art collection in Mechelen in July 1523 (Document 6).(11) From this document, we can deduce a number of important facts:
(1) The four tapestries of the Passion of Christ were almost square in format, their measurements correspond with those of the current series no.10 in Madrid.
(2) Besides the textiles of Gethsemani and the Bearing of the Cross ordered in 1520 and delivered in 1522 (docs. 1 and 4), this series also contains a Calvary (comment nre sgr pendoit en croix) and a Descent from the Cross (la deposicion de nre sgr de la croix). Consequently, these are the tapestries that had already been delivered in 1520 (doc. 1). Together they comprise the current series no.10 in Madrid (figures 1, 6, 10 and 14).
(3) The canopy depicting God the Father and the Holy Ghost surrounded by some angels was registered later because it was delivered end of 1524. The weaver’s name, Peter de Pannemaker, was thereby repeated. This piece is currently kept in Madrid, series 9/1 (fig.17). With it belongs a Calvary also described in the 1523 inventory (no.5 there), (fig.18). (12)

Two more weavings are connected to this group of Passion tapestries, we shall mention them here as a reminder. Nowadays, the tapestry with the Farewell of the Christ (fig. 22) is considered part of the Canopy of Madrid. Julien Portois, a Brussels weaver based in Mechelen, was reimbursed for the manufacturing of this piece on January 3rd of 1521 (Document 2).(13) And ultimately, Peter de Pannemaker must have delivered the first subject of the Passion cycle, a Last Supper, after Margaret’s death, because Emperor Charles V paid him for this tapestry in 1531. It had the same dimensions as the former four, and for this work of art again a price of 38 pounds a yard was paid (Document 7) (fig. 24).(14)

The Tapestries - Style and Iconography

The remaining Passion tapestries of Margaret do raise a lot of questions in the mind of the tapestry historian. Who produced the designs and the cartoons for these masterpieces? In how far were these models innovative in their genre? Which sources of imagery were possibly called upon? To what degree is this a specific iconography catered to the customer’s wishes? How do these tapestries relate to similar contemporary pieces? In the scope of this article, we can merely provide concise answers, hoping to lead the way into a renewed investigation.

The Square Passion

All four tapestries of the Passion series are of a square format, as confirmed by the 1523 inventory.(15) We can observe an iconographic anomaly regarding the manufacturing of these works. Peter de Pannemaker had already delivered the last two subjects of the Passion story, the Calvary and the Descent from the Cross, in 1520 when he receives the order for the first two subjects, Gethsemani and the Bearing of the Cross. The date of the first order is unknown. We could propose the date of 1518, if we would presume two years of labour were needed for these tapestries as well, but 1519 is possible also, as the contract of 1520 (doc. 1) states that the weaver should finish both pieces in one year. However, the problem is not of a purely theoretical nature. One can indeed note at first sight that the earlier pieces were woven in a more archaic style than the later two. Because Bernard van Orley acted as a witness for the Gethsemani order, he is generally assumed to be the designer of these tapestries - and rightly so. Yet, is this also true for the Calvary and Crucifixion ? A concise analysis of the details on both pieces will clarify this matter.

Gethsemani and the Bearing of the Cross

Bernard van Orley, Margaret’s court painter since 1518, assisted as a witness when the order of the two tapestries was drawn up. The style of the weavings themselves reveals Van Orley to be their original designer without any doubt. They combine all the characteristics of his art. Firstly, it is remarkable how for the very first time in a woven Passion series the figures obtain a certain dramatic weight through their large size and their position in the foreground of the composition.(16) The dramatic potential is heightened by the magnification of particular anatomical details, such as for example the veins on the hands and feet of the apostles in the Gethsemani tapestry or the almost grotesque faces of the executioners on the Bearing of the Cross. In these two tapestries one can clearly detect the influence of two major schools, which profoundly marked Van Orley’s art: the German graphic art of Dürer’s age and the Italian High Renaissance as it was known in these regions through tapestry design.

When viewing the Gethsemani (fig.1) for the first time, anyone familiar with the arts of around 1520 will have a sensation of standing before an adaptation of a German print from that period. The three sleeping apostles in the foreground, the kneeling Christ in the back facing the angel giving him the cup of sorrow, all those scenes placed in a broad landscape depicted with minute secondary scenes at the sides and in the back – these are elements which are all well known from the various Dürer prints of this subject.(17) Still, it is never an exact copy. The entire composition, especially the figure of Christ with the angel and their relation to the tall tree in the foreground, most clearly shows a likeness to a woodcut by Lucas Cranach the Elder from 1501 (fig.2).(18) Nonetheless, there are pronounced analogies between this composition and the art of Albrecht Dürer. During his journey in the Netherlands, Dürer made several drawings of Passion scenes, possibly for a new cycle of engravings. His representation of Gethsemani in the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe, drawn and signed 1520, bears a startling resemblance to this tapestry: for example the posture of the sleeping St Peter, centre front, and the kneeling Christ with outstretched arms, top left (compare fig.3 and 4).(19) Could we presume a direct artistic dialogue between this Dürer drawing and Van Orley’s design? It seems acceptable if we consider the fact that during his famous stay in the Netherlands, Albrecht Dürer was a guest at Bernard van Orley’s house between August 27th and September 2nd of 1520, the exact same week when Van Orley witnessed the conclusion of the contract between the regent and Pannemaker for this tapestry.(20) It is therefore obvious to conclude that the artists might have discussed its composition. Is Dürer drawing a sketch for the benefit of Van Orley who then elaborates a variation of it in his tapestry cartoon, or did Dürer want to capture a memento of the design by Margaret’s court painter?(21) Lastly, it is worth mentioning the appearance of three very small tableaus in the background. From the left, a group of soldiers lead by Judas arrives to carry out the arrest of Christ; the procession passes through a small gateway, which is also present in Dürer’s sketch. On the right hand side towards the top, we see Christ greeting the three Marias before the city gates; in the upper left corner, in Jerusalem, the design displays the Ecce Homo scene in Pilates’ palace. In such a manner, these small scenes show the sequel to the story and link up with the main scene of the following tapestry.

Of all the four tapestries in this series, the Bearing of the Cross most immediately reflects a kinship to Van Orley’s art. The central group of the falling Christ who is being trampled by one of the executioners and trashed by the other two reaches back to one of the outer panels of Van Orley’s Crucifixion triptych executed between 1515 and 1520 for the St.Walburga church in Veurne (compare fig. 6 and 7).(22) Here the story of the gospel is elaborated more profoundly through the motive of Christ being crushed as the Mystical Bunch of Grapes.(23) The tapestry also shows Mary, Veronica and the weeping women on the right. This complex group refers to the Bearing of the Cross by Raphael, the so-called Spasimo di Sicilia created around 1514-1515, a painting which had been translated into a splendid tapestry almost immediately for cardinal Bibbiena in Brussels between 1516 and 1520 (fig.8).(24) In turn, this famous painting goes back to a woodcut of the same name by Dürer in his Great Passion (B.10; 1500); the archetype being the large Bearing of the Cross by Martin Schongauer (1475-85), which already exhibits elements like the figure of Christ leaning forward with his hand on a rock and the high priests on horseback wearing pointed hats.(25)

The Italianism of this composition is enhanced even more by the female figure on the extreme right who is wringing her hands while she watches the meeting of Jesus and Mary (fig. 5). Her hairdo is Italian in style and appears in the same shape in the designs of Tommaso Vindicor for the “Scuola Nova” series.(26) The woman’s pose implicitly refers to Saint Paul on Raphael’s tapestry with the Sacrifice at Lystra, which was woven in the same period in Brussels for Pope Leo X.(27) In addition, the pseudo-classical drape of both the top and bottom garment is strongly reminiscent of similar figures in Jacopo de’ Barbari’s engravings (fig. 9). This Italian artist had concluded his career in Mechelen with Margaret of Austria. Dürer had asked Margaret for his sketchbook but she had already promised it to Van Orley.(28)

Calvary and Descent from the Cross

As we stated before, the last pair of designs of the series was delivered to Margaret before the first pair. Some stylistic differences between both pairs of tapestries have brought about doubts as to whether or not these two pieces could be attributed to Bernard van Orley.(29) Nevertheless, detailed analysis does permit us to conclude that such attribution is indeed acceptable though on certain conditions. At first approach, the Calvary gives a rather hieratical impression: the majestic figure of the Crucified who, surrounded by seven mournful angels, looks down on the group of weeping women; John and another disciple join them from the left (fig.10). The general composition and the vertical structure of the drawing refer to older compositions of this theme in Brussels tapestry art, a specimen in the Museo Civico in Forli being the nearest in comparison (fig.12).(30) One can also call to mind the woodcut depicting the Calvary from Dürer’s Great Passion, which displays the angels collecting the blood of Christ in chalices (B.11).(31) However, on this tapestry an exquisite Italianizing female figure appears on the right showing the beholder the Vera Icon, and against the right border we see a balding man in a fairly Rogerian design as well as a lavishly dressed bearded man standing with arms crossed in front of the chest (fig.13). There seems to be little coherence between these figures and they appear to have been added to the overall cartoon at a later stage.(32) In the foreground we spot two splendid ointment jars; the hexagonal one is repeated on the next tapestry. They remind us of Margaret of Austria’s penchant for having herself portrayed as Mary Magdalene.(33) Lastly, we notice the fine trilingual legend above the Crucified, something rarely seen in contemporary pieces. Could this possibly be a reference to the rising humanism which flourished in the Louvain Collegium Trilingue founded by Busleyden in 1517?

The Descent from the Cross in its turn offers an impressive synthesis of the traditions in 15th century Flemish painting, the influences of the Quattrocento and Van Orley’s own input (fig.14). At first glance, the nearly horizontal body of the dead Christ with one arm dangling down refers to Van der Weyden’s famous Descent from the Cross, made for Louvain and now in the Prado. Yet strangely enough the composition’s main features seem to have been borrowed from Fra Angelico’s painting in the San Marco monastery in Florence: note the woman carrying Jesus’ feet, bottom left, and the two men on ladders supporting the body and arm.(34) The man on the rear ladder holding the shroud also appears to have been derived from the Italian school, more precisely from an engraving with a similar topic by Marcantonio Raimondi.(35) Strongly in contrast to all of the above we notice the two hovering angels reflecting a true late Gothic Flemish pathos. Van Orley’s own original input, as I see it, is obvious in the two figures to the extreme left and right : a kneeling Magdalene to the left, clutching her hands, and on the other side the contrapposto figure of an all but dancing John. The sense of spacial rendition and the drawing of the hands reveal the mark of Margaret’s court painter. Was he assisted by another, more traditional master while working on this cartoon? One is inclined to believe so when considering the very original facial traits of the grandiose Joseph of Arimathea who carries the dead body of the Saviour like a real Christo-phoros (fig.16). This very sharply drawn face belongs entirely to the aesthetics of another Brussels painter, namely Colijn de Coter. One can find examples of such types on his Descent from the Cross, in Stuttgart, and on his Lamentation, in The Hague.(36) We have recently been able to point out De Coter’s involvement as a cartoon painter for the Passion tapestries in Trento.(37)

A last peculiarity on this tapestry is the ostentative way in which some relics of the Passion are portrayed. To the front left, on a fine cloth on the ground in front of Magdalene lies the Crown of Thorns; this would be a more likely scene for a Lamentation or a Pieta, after the corpse has been securely brought down. Just as remarkable is the gesture of the two figures towards the back, left. The bearded man with turban – the same Nicodemus depicted in the former tapestry in the front right? – respectfully holds three nails from the cross in a cloth, handing them to a weeping young woman next to him (fig.14). Are these “arma christi” purposefully being displayed in such an obvious manner? It calls to mind how one of the most precious relics of the Holy Roman Empire, namely the Holy Lance, has been preserved up until today in the Weltliche Schatzkammer in Vienna. Maybe it was Margaret’s intention, as the daughter of the German emperor, to hint at this fact. We have as yet no proof for this theory, still it seems plausible.(38)

To conclude, I will add a general hypothesis concerning these two tapestries. Keeping in mind the observation that the Bearing of the Cross reaches back, to a large extent, to a similar panel which served as an outer wing in Van Orley´s altar piece – though with the interference of the contemporary version of Rafael’s “Spasimo di Sicilia” – we might raise the possibility that the two tapestries showing the Calvary and the Descent from the Cross offer an indirect image of the missing middle panel of this triptych. It was indeed those two subjects which Van Orley painted on the altarpiece, probably synchronically, precisely during the years 1515-1520, the same period in which both tapestries originated. We have no certainty about this case at present, but the possibility should be considered in further research. There is a striking analogy between the demonstration of the Cross relics on the tapestries (in particular of the Descent from the Cross) and the way they are displayed on the inner panels of the Veurne triptych, as was adequately proven by Tervarent.(39)

The Canopy

Because of the 1523 order and the additions to that year’s inventory, we now know that this canopy was intended as a complement to the Square Passion (Doc. 5) This work too was undoubtedly designed by Bernard van Orley: the anatomy of the crucified Christ corresponds closely with the one shown on Margaret’s Calvary tapestry (see fig. 18 and 10); the angel in the top left corner is virtually the mirror image of the top right angel on the Descent from the Cross (fig.14) ; also the floral border of the dorsal has an almost identical design to the one around the Square Passion.

Unlike the Calvary from the Passion series, the central scene in this piece does not depict a biblical-historical event but serves as a devotional piece (fig.18). A Christ figure with a cross stands out against a vast landscape. Two angels gesticulating mournfully surround him. To His left, we perceive a seated Mary and a standing John both looking at two female figures to the other side of the cross whose allegorical meaning is highlighted by the woven legend. The standing IVSTITIA puts away the sword in its sheath, in front of her kneels MISERICORDIA looking up at Christ while she collects the blood from his wound in a dish (fig.19). The Crucified looks down on Misericord and a veritable dialogue between both figures features in the legend woven in gold thread. Above the cross it reads “PROTHOPARE(N)TIS SA(N)GVINE SOLVI DEBITA M(V)LTA QVOS SVPER EST MISERICORDIA PARTICIPA” – “Through my blood I have erased many debts (sins) of the first parent. Misericord take charge of what remains.” To this Misericord replies in an inscription which reaches from her mouth to the wound of Christ “SA(N)GVI(NI?)S HO(MIN)I P(RE)CIV(M) (or PRECIOSVM) DISTRIBVA(M) INDIGENIS” which can be loosely translated as follows “I will distribute the price of the blood (or the costly blood) of Man to those present”.(40)

The redemption theme is elucidated by two minor tableaus taking place far into the landscape which causes their miniature format: to the left (in between the spout of blood and the tree) the Fall of Adam and Eve, to the right (next to Mary’s head) the Expulsion from Paradise. The figure of Misericord collecting Christ’s blood belongs to a whole group of allegories related to the Holy Blood, like Ecclesia and later also the Mass of pope Gregory.(41) Thus, the emphasis which was laid on the cult of relics in the Square Passion is further elaborated upon in this tapestry with the image of the Holy Blood. At the same time, this dorsal behind the monarch’s throne represents a thesis of justice. The debate, or rather the trial, between Justice and Misericord, richly illustrated on various contemporary tapestries, is added here to the moment of Redemption.(42)

The actual baldachin with God the Father and the Holy Ghost accompanies the dorsal of the allegorical Calvary regarding its content, as a redemption of the original sin. Van Orley repeated the theme as such on an oil painting, currently in Rotterdam, which shows a striking likeness to this canopy (fig.20). Mary (likewise with arms crossed in front of the chest) and John accompany the Crucified, and in the clouds above him, the Holy Father and Holy Ghost emerge. On the left, we now see a Caritas figure, which can be recognised as a portrait of Margaret herself, while opposite Justice is storing away her sword in its sheath.(43) This Misericord, identical to Caritas/Margaret, and her counterpart Justice are repeated once again on Van Orley’s well-known Calvary triptych, which was destined for Margaret’s burial church in Brou though it is now preserved in the church of Our Lady in Bruges (fig.21).(44)

This canopy most probably served as an awning for Margaret’s prie-dieu in the chapel of her palace in Mechelen, as they were depicted in a print by Hogenberg.(45) For it says in the settlement of 1542: lequel ciel est pour servir a lad. riche tapisserie (doc. 5), which might well refer to the Passion tapestries delivered in 1522. Or perhaps “ciel” only applies to the baldachin and “riche tapisserie” denotes the dorsal? We cannot tell as yet, nor can we be sure of the initial location of the complete group of Passion tapestries. In all likelihood, they served to adorn the liturgy at the court Chapel in Mechelen. However, this building has been changed so radically in the course of history that a topographical reconstruction has become impossible.

The theme of godly Justice and Mercy could likewise serve as a visual delegation of the divine Justice to the worldly sovereign. As governess, Margaret possessed the highest judicial authority, delegated to her by the emperor himself. In this context, it is interesting to note the analogy with another contemporary canopy, namely the ensemble of Brussels tapestries manufactured in 1523-1524 for pope Clemens VII, of which the dorsal and frieze are still preserved in the Vatican.(46) This very large weaving (523 x 465 cm) shows three personifications related to Margaret’s canopy. The middle, female, figure is considered to represent Faith or Religion, likewise seated between Justitia and Misericordia. The latter is furthermore represented in the shape of a Caritas figure nursing children. So this contemporary weaving shows the same equation as Van Orley’s afore mentioned paintings, where the Caritas figure additionally assumes the features of the Regent.

According to Saintenoy, the Canopy of Margaret of Austria added luster to the abdication of Charles V in the ducal palace on the Coudenberg in Brussels in 1555.(47) It is a fact that from 1568 the dorsal and the canopy together, given in loan by Phillip II, served as a throne ornament in the old church of the Escorial. When in 1593 the tapestries returned from the Escorial to the palace in Madrid, mention was made of the Farewell of Christ as a “cayda de dicho cielo”, this is as a dorsal, most probably placed below the Calvary.(48) This particular arrangement has remained customary up until today.

The Farewell of Christ to Mary and the Holy Women

At the beginning of 1521, while Peter de Pannemaker was finishing the last two Passion tapestries, the court paid for a tapestry with the Farewell of Christ made by Julien Portois in Mechelen (Doc. 2). This tapestry too was preserved in the royal Spanish collection and, as mentioned, it now belongs to the Canopy (fig.22).(49)

The Farewell is an apocryphal theme, which enjoyed certain popularity in German art of the same period. A woodcut about the life of Mary by Dürer (B.92), produced at the latest in 1506, shows Christ in an averted pose blessing his Mother who is seated in front of two other women.(50) Related even closer to this tapestry is an engraving by Wolf Trent from 1516 in which three apostles provide a visual counterbalance to the Holy Women and in which Christ reaches out his hand to Mary. A similar disposition is also found on a pen drawing by Lucas Cranach the Elder.(51)

The design for the tapestry was most probably provided by someone in the entourage of Van Orley, perhaps Jan van Coninxloo who elaborated a comparable composition in a painting that is preserved in Rouen (fig.23).(52) This artist, related to Van Orley on his mother’s side, employs an iconography analogous to Van Orley’s vocabulary of just before 1520.(53) Likewise, a similar style can be observed in a number of figures and compositions on the Life of Christ, a series of Brussels tapestries originating from the Canterbury cathedral and executed in 1511-1513, which are now being kept in Aix-en-Provence.(54)

Relations to Other Passion Series

The passion story represented a popular genre in tapestry production during the first quarter of the sixteenth century. Numerous other examples are preserved in a myriad of museums and collections. The series here analysed has often been linked to similar contemporary tapestries, justly or unjustly so. Some critical remarks about the subject will complete this study.

The collection of the Spanish court itself holds a number of other Passion tapestries from the same period which have been compared to the Square Passion at times. A stylistically older series is one depicting a Bearing of the Cross and a Descent from the Cross (Madrid, series 6); a series which also held, until the beginning of the nineteenth century, a Washing of the Feet (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) and a Christ before Pilate (Royal Museum of History and Art, B Brussels).(55) The legends “Aelst” and “1507” on the Bearing of the Cross refer to an older, original version from the workshop of Pieter van Aelst, of which in Madrid only one tapestry remains, namely an isolated Descent from the Cross. Another reissue, which sticks closer to the narrow original cartoons, was bought in 1531 by cardinal Cles and is still preserved in Trento.(56) Marguerite Calberg, and others after her, claimed that the enlarged version from Madrid was created after the Square Passion. In her view, the bearded man with arms crossed in front of the chest, to the extreme right on the Descent from the Cross of the Madrid series 6/II, was borrowed from an identical figure on the Calvary of the Square Passion (compare fig. 13 and 15).(57) Nevertheless, it might have occurred the other way round. The stylistically older Descent from the Cross displays this figure in the background (fig.15). He is obviously looking at the group of people collecting the body of Christ and is being urged to do so by a man to his left who points at the principal scene. On the Square Passion Calvary, he is placed before the Crucified and thus his gaze trails off into the distance. It is therefore more plausible that the Passion series Madrid – Amsterdam – Brussels originated before the first two tapestries of the Square Passion, they were in all likelihood ordered in the year 1518 or 1519.(58) The Mantegna-like figure to the left on the Descent from the Cross of Madrid 6/II is much less refined than the lovely Veronica we see on the Square Passion. She reminds us more of the dancing girls on the Triumph of Virtues, commissioned for the cathedral of Palencia around 1520.(59) In addition, there is no certainty about the production date of the Passion of Trento: 1531 is just the year of purchase.

Just as many, if not more, comments have been dedicated to another Passion series formerly owned by the dukes of Alva and now scattered over various museums in Paris, Washington and New York.(60) The connection of this series to the Madrid Square Passion is particularly close because two of its compositions, Gethsemani and the Bearing of the Cross, were woven to the same cartoons. By the same token, the Last Supper seems almost identical to the tapestry Pannemaker supplied to Charles V in 1531 (Madrid 45/11).

A number of researchers assume this Alva Passion to embody the original version of the cartoons, mostly on account of the marks: the Alva tapestries display no marks and would therefore stem from before 1528 while the (minuscule) Brussels city mark on the Madrid Square Passion would indicate an execution of that year at the earliest.(61) In our opinion, there are several arguments against this conclusion. Firstly, there is the congruity between the four subjects named in the 1523 inventory (doc. 6) and the series in Madrid: series number 10 is undoubtedly the one ordered by Margaret and woven by Peter de Pannemaker in 1518/19-1522. A Descent from the Cross is part of this series but is absent from the Alva Passion. We also established, after accurate research at the site, that the minuscule Brussels city mark was added onto the selvage of the Madrid series no.10 only afterwards. On the other hand, it has been found that the bottom selvage of the tapestries of the Alva Passion was renovated(62) and so it might be possible that those weavings once carried the city mark (of 1528 or later) as well, nothing speaks for an a priori manufacture before 1528. Last but least, there is the visual proof itself. For the Alva Passion tapestries Van Orley reworked the two most “modern” compositions, namely Gethsemani and the Bearing of the Cross, he redesigned the rather archaic Calvary into an entirely renaissance composition with strong dramatic effects(63) and added an equally impressive Last Supper. The first two subjects of Margaret’s Passion series were consequently framed by two new compositions. The Last Supper was also produced for and delivered to Charles V in 1531 (fig.24). Was the imperial version the first one created? Probably so, because the alterations to the cartoon seem to develop from the Madrid version to the New York version and not reversely.(64)

The only remaining question is to the commissioner of the Alva Passion. This problem has not been solved as yet and, strictly speaking, it is beyond the scope of this study. Adelson, who wrote the latest synthesis about the series, states as his hypothesis that it was a commission by or a gift for the Vatican. Personally, I believe that the highest Dutch aristocracy cannot be ruled out concerning royal commissions of this size. Suffices to mention the tapestry collection of Antoine de Lalaing, lord of Hoogstraten and confidant of Margaret: in 1548 his widow Elisabeth van Culemborg owned several Passion tapestries that might well be identified with the Alva series.(65) Unless the infamous “Iron Duke” of Alva himself bought the series during his stay in our region, for he was a regular customer of Willem de Pannemaker (who was perhaps a son of Peter), purveyor to the court of Margaret and owner of these cartoons.

The same questions about a possible commissioner arise over a group of four Brussels tapestries preserved in Dresden depicting the Adoration of the Shepherds, the Bearing of the Cross, the Calvary and the Ascension. All of these pieces are tributary to engravings by Dürer yet the Calvary is a fairly faithful copy of the Square Passion Calvary (compare fig. 10 an 11). They were probably bought, if not commissioned, by one of the Electors of Saxony in the Netherlands during their trips to the court in Mechelen.(66) The Dresden Calvary literally reproduces the Madrid tapestry, even though one figure was added: a wailing woman to the right of the cross and left of Veronica. This figure is something like a hidden signature of the Orley studio, it can be spotted on the afore mentioned Farewell of Christ by Jan van Coninxloo (fig.23) on the right side of the composition, but also on the right panel of the Saluzzo retable in the Gemeentelijk Museum in Brussels. On the latter piece, the figure represents the weeping Mary and bears the inscription ORLEI, probably a reference to Bernard’s father Valentijn van Orley.(67)

Peter de Pannemaker

The subsequent orders of the Square Passion, the Canopy and the Last Supper identify Peter de Pannemaker as the weaver of these glorious pieces. They are also the only remaining demonstrable tapestries by this weaver. A few other archivalia speak of his activities, most importantly a letter by the emperor Maximilian which mentions that on May 19th of 1517 he bought from this weaver “ain stukgh guldin tapesserei mit einem crucifix und unsers heren laiden…umb tausend guldin”.(68) Does this involve one single tapestry similar to the ensuing Passion of his daughter Margaret? It cannot be determined anymore at this time. Still, we readily understand how Margaret turned to Peter de Pannemaker for her - ostensibly first – order in Brussels in 1518/19 and that she commissioned him first of all to weave for her too a “crucifix” (Calvary) and an “unsers heren laiden” (Descent from the Cross). Her appreciation for his services is eminent from her order of January 20th 1523, in which she confers on him the title of “nostre tapissier” with a fee of one “patart” per day.(69) Judging by the magnificent weavings he left us, De Pannemaker fully deserved this honour.


(1) Parts of this article were presented earlier at lectures for the Royal Society of Archaeology in Mechelen (26 November 1982), at the “Tapestry Day” of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (7 April 1986), and at the symposium Basler und Strassburger Bildteppiche des 15. Jahrhunderts at the Basel Kunstmuseum (27 October 1990). Furthermore, we were granted permission to study the four Passion tapestries (Patrimonio Nacional, series 10) in detail at the exhibition Brusselse wandtapijten in Spanje in de 16de eeuw, in Rijkhoven, Cultural Centre “Alden Biesen”, 1985.

(2) H.Zimmerman, Urkunden und Regesten…, in Jahrbuch der k. Und k. Kunstsammlungen in Wien, I, 1883, p. xxix.

(3) From Flanders came the representations of Esther and Asseurus, Hercules, Holofernes and Bird Hunts; cfr. J. Ferrandis Torres, Inventarios reales (Juan II a Juana la Loca), Madrid, 1943, pp. 26-27 and 48; F.J. Sanchez Canton, Libros, tapices y cuadros que coleccionó Isabel la Catolica, Madrid, 1950, pp. 108-109.

(4) The house of Savoy owned a considerable amount of tapestries, according to inventories of 1498, cf. P. Vayra, Inventari dei Castelli di Ciamberi, di Torino e di Pont d’Ain, Turin, 1883, passim.

(5) As mentioned by J. Duverger, Het tapijtwerk aan het hof van Margareta van Oostenrijk, in Jaarboek van de Kon. Vlaamse Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten, 21, 1959, p. 151 (the article mentioned there was never published) – Another, more general, summary in Gh. De Boom, Marguerite d’Autriche-Savoie et la pré-Renaissance, Brussels, 1935, pp. 136-138.

(6) J. Versyp, De geschiedenis van de tapijtkunst te Brugge, Brussels, 1954, p. 183, doc. LIV. One of these weavings is most likely the tapestry from the former Stora collection, cf. G. Delmarcel & E. Duverger, Brugge en de tapijtkunst, Moeskroen, 1987, p. 110, fig. 64.

(7) For the tapestries which have been preserved, now in Budapest, cf. G. Delmarcel, Tapisseries anciennes d’Enghien, Mons, 1980, pp. 13-15.

(8) Nevertheless, it is rather remarkable that other than these seven Passion tapestries apparently no Brussels weavings of note were included in the regent’s collection. On this subject, we can only refer to two orders of verdures, respectively for Peter van Aelst and for Jan Hertsteene (cf. P. Saintenoy, Les tapisseries de la cour de Bruxelles sous Charles V, in Annales de la Soc. Royale d’archéologie de Bruxelles, XXX, 1921, p. 7). We can only guess if the three smaller Passion tapestries, mentioned in the 1523 inventory (see our doc. 6, no. 5, 6 and 8), were of Brussels origin as well.

(9) P. Junquera de Vega & C. Herrero Carretero, Catalogo de Tapices del Patrimonio Nacional, Volumen I: Siglo XVI, Madrid 1986, pp. 45-53 (series no 9 and 10) (further mentioned as: Junquera 1986). Exhibition catalogue Tapisserie de Tournai en Espagne. La tapisserie bruxelloise en Espagne au XVIe siècle. Brusselse wandtapijten in Spanje in de 16de eeuw, Tournai-Brussels-Rijkhoven, 1985, pp. 193-203.

(10) Alphonse Henne made reference to this document but his publication was incomplete and the reference faulty (A. Henne, Histoire du règne de Charles-Quinct en Belgique, 4, Brussels, 1859, p. 356, note 4). John David Farmer consequently and incorrectly analysed this document, claiming that it alluded to the delivery of Gethsemani and the Bearing of the Cross which actually took place in 1522 (our doc. 4) (J.D. Farmer, Bernard van Orley of Brussels, 1981 Princeton thesis, ed. Ann Arbor, 1988, p. 310). The error was repeated and amplified by Maryan Ainsworth who even jumbles up the current reference of these documents (M. Ainsworth, Bernaert van Orley, peintre-inventeur, in Studies in the History of Art Washington 24, 1990, pp. 41-64, for the chronology pp. 48-50 and p. 63, no. 50-54). – The document Brussels, Archives générales du Royaume, Acquits de Lille 524 II, was known to me before Ainsworth mentioned it. I referred to it during the 1986 lecture (see note 1) at which the author attended.

(11) M. Michelant published an incomplete version of this document, Inventaire (….) de Marguerite d’Autriche(….) dressé en son palais de Malines le 9 juillet 1523, in Bulletin de la Commission royale d’histoire, 3rd series, 13, 1872, pp. 128-129, and it is now kept in the Bibliothèque Nationale of Paris, foundation 500 Colbert. The complete text (published for the first time here in our doc. 6) is the oldest which mentions the almost square dimensions of this Passion series.

(12) Junquera 1986, pp. 46-47, series no.9 /I and II. Gh. De Boom, op. cit., p.138, already attributed this work to Pieter de Pannemaker, but without documents. In Spanish documents and publications, this ensemble is traditionally described as “el dosel del emperador”; a better name might be “the canopy of Margaret of Austria”.

(13) Junquera 1986, p. 48, series 9/III.

(14) J. Houdoy, Les tapisseries de haute-lisse, Lille-Paris, 1871, p. 145; Junquera 1986, p. 306, series 45/II. Another tapestry in the fictitious series (45/III) depicts the feast of Pentecost (297 x 277 cm) in a style similar to the other tapestries. It seems quite plausible that this weaving too was meant to complement the Passion series here considered.

(15) According to the present-day inventory in Madrid (series 10), the tapestries are 345 cm exactly on each side (Junquera 1986, pp. 50-53); conform the 1523 inventory (doc. 6), the first two tapestries were 5 X 5,25 yards and the third one was 5,25 x 5,5 yards. The shrinking of a quarter yard (ca. 17 cm) in width is possible over centuries because the tapestries lose in width when they leave the loom and the tension on the warp threads is loosened. – The Passion tapestries of series 10 in Madrid count 11 to 12 warp threads per cm and are primarily made of silk, silver and gold thread.

(16) It is typical that the tapestries should be described as “l’histoire à assez grans personnaiges..” (doc. 4) at delivery.

(17) See the prints of the Engraved Passion, 1508 (B.4); the Great Passion, ed. 1511 (B.6) and the Small Passion, 1511 (B.26). Illustration and commentary by Michelangelo Lupo and E. Castelnuovo, G. Delmarcel, M. Lupo and others, Gli Arazzi del Cardinale. Bernardo Cles e il Ciclo della Passione di Pieter van Aelst, Trento, 1990, pp.162-163. – An almost mirror copy of Dürer B 6 is the Brussels tapestry from the so called Soderini Passion, of which a variation is kept in the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, cf. E. Meyer, Das Gebed am Oelberg, in Stiftung zur Förderung der Hamburgischen Kunstsammlungen. Erwerbungen 1960, p. 26.

(18) Geisberg XXV, 17, cf. J. Jahn (ed.), Lucas Cranach d. Ae., Das Gesamte graphische Werk, (Munich, 1972), p. 314.

(19) Former collection von Hirsch, Basel. Pictured in J.A. Goris and G. Marlier, Journal de voyage d’Albert Dürer dans les anciens Pays-Bas, Brussels, 1970, plate 76. About this drawing see among others F. Winkler, Albrecht Dürer. Leben und Werk, Berlin 1957, p. 308 and E. Panofsky, Das Leben und die Kunst Albrecht Dürers, Munich, 1977, pp. 191-192; J. E. von Borries, Kupferstichkabinett. Handzeichnungen, in Jahrbuch der Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Baden-Württemberg, 16, 1979, pp. 171-173.

(20) Exhibition catalogue, Albrecht Dürer in de Nederlanden. Zijn reis (1520-1521) en invloed, Brussels, 1977, p. 124, no.230.

(21) Different, Italian, sources are not ruled out. Candace Adelson for example, refers to a composition of Perugino and to a print of Bart. Montagna in a thus far unpublished text about the Alva Passion in Washington.

(22) M.J. Friedländer, Jan Gossart and Bernart van Orley (Early Netherlandish painting VIII), Leiden-Brussels, 1972, pp. 57 and 77 (further mentioned as: Friedländer 1972).

(23) J. Marrow, Passion Iconography in Northern European Art of the Late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance, Kortrijk, 1979, p. 83 and p. 87, plate VII, with the re-edition in the Musée Jaquemart-André, Paris.

(24) For this tapestries, both in the Vatican, cf. C. Adelson in the exhibition catalogue Raffaello in Vaticano, Vatican City (Milan), 1984-85, pp. 277-283, no. 104 and 105. – For Raphael’s painting, ibidem, p. 272, no. 102 and L. Dussler, Raphael. A critical Catalogue of his Pictures, Wall Paintings and Tapestries, London-New York, 1971, p. 44 and plate 96.

(25) For Dürer’s woodcut from 1500 (B.10) see W. Kurth, The Complete Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer, New York, s.d., p. 124, and Castelnuovo-Lupo, op. cit., 1990, p. 226; M. Bernhard, Martin Schongauer und sein Kreis. Druckgraphik. Handzeichnungen, Munich, 1980, p. 47 and p. 137: 1475-1485 (according to Flechsig).

(26) N. Dacos, Tommaso Vincidor, un élève de Raphaël aux Pays-Bas, in Relations artistiques entre les Pays-Bas et l’Italie à la Renaissance. Études dédiées à S. Sulzberger, Brussels-Rome, 1980, fig. 7 and 22. We have to consider that Vincidor also arrived in the Netherlands exactly in May 1520, for the supervision of the cartoons and the weaving of the papal tapestries.

(27) Adelson, in catalogue Vatican City 1984-85, p. 283; for the tapestry see amongst others Dussler, op. cit., fig. 184.

(28) Cf. A. M. Hind, Early Italian Engraving, London, 1938, part VI/VII, plates 699, 700, 704, and 712; P. Bautier, Jacopo de Barbari et Marguerite d’Autriche. Les débuts de l’italianisme dans l’art des Pays-Bas, in La Revue d’Art, 24, 1922-1923, pp. 68-69 – On 17 July 1516 Barbari had already died.

(29) Friedländer 1972, p. 77; Farmer 1988, p. 118, no.19; Ainsworth 1990, p. 57.

(30) Castelnuovo-Lupo 1990, p. 224, fig. 146; with its inner borders shaped like gothic pinnacles, this tapestry connects to an older series in Madrid, namely series 6, probably manufactured in 1507 by Pieter van Aelst, cf. infra, note 56.

(31) Ca. 1497/98. Bartsch 11; W. Kurth, plate 125.

(32) For the figure at the front right, see infra, notes 57 and 58.

(33) Friedländer 1972, plate 140, suppl. 159.

(34) R. Van Marle, The Renaissance Painters of Florence. The first generation, The Hague, 1928, pp. 52-54 (ca. 1425) and fig. 28; G. C. Argan, Fra Angelico, Geneva, 1955, p. 73 (ca. 1440) – This very striking resemblance was kindly brought to my attention by Candace Adelson.

(35) Fig. in exhibition catalogue. Raphaël dans les collections françaises, Paris, 1983-1984, p. 350, no. 30.

(36) C. Périer- D’Ieteren, Colyn de Coter et la technique picturale des peintres flamands du XVe siècle, Brussels, 1985, fig. 213, 220 and 249.

(37) Castelnuovo-Lupo 1990, pp. 170, 182-183.

(38) Incorporated into the the metal tip of the so-called Holy Lance in Vienna is a nail, which was generally regarded as being one of the nails of the Cross, no. 157; H.L. Adelson, The Holy Lance and the Hereditary German Monarchy, in The Art Bulletin, 48,1966, pp. 177-192

(39) G. De Schoutheete, Les énigmes de l’art du moyen âge. II. Les sources littéraires de Bernard van Orley, Paris, 1941, pp. 55-72. Farmer 1988, pp. 90-91, wrote the latest synthesis about the subject (though comparisons with tapestries mentioned in this text are irrelevant).

(40) This text is hardly legible, it was apparently added during or after weaving with a “crapautage”-technique. Junquera 1986, p. 47 for a first, though incomplete, attempt at deciphering it. The third word is very hypothetically: ICIV, PCN, PCIV? If the last word were incorrect, one could assume “indigentibus” = the “needy, destitute” (of “indigens’), instead of “indigenis” (of “indigenus”).

(41) See E. Kirschbaum, Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie, 1, col. 310 (“H. Blut”, by W. Brückner) and 572-573 (“Ecclesia u. Synagoge” by W. Greisenegger).

(42) For the iconography, cf. Kirschbaum, L.C.I., 3, col. 499 (“Ratschluss der Erlösung”). This subject on the Triumph of Virtues, Brussels and elsewhere: cf. exhibit. catalogue Brussels 1976, pp. 100-117, no. 24-27.

(43) Friedländer 1972, fig. 105, plate 105, fig. 113. Also dated there ca. 1524.

(44) Not yet visible (before restauration) in Friedländer 1972, plate 86; D. De Vos, D. Vanden Bussche and H. Vanden Borre, De restauratie van het Passiedrieluik van Barend van Orley in de O.L.Vrouwekerk te Brugge, in Jaarboek 1983-84. Stad Brugge, Stedelijke Musea, (2), 1985, pp. 106-134; on p. 108 the author mistakenly identifies Justitia with Saint Michael.

(45) M. Mauquoy-Hendrickx, Belgische portretten in de prentkunst, Brussels, 1960, pp. 7-8 and plate 3.

(46) M. Perry, “Candor Illaesus”: the “Impresa” of Clement VII and Other Medici Devices in the Vatican Stanze, in The Burlington Magazine, CXIX, 1977, pp. 676-686, see fig. 3 and p. 677 and following; also pictured in the exhibit. catalogue Firenze e la Toscana dei Medici nell’Europa del Cinquecento. Palazzo Vecchio: committenza e collezionismo medicei, Florence, 1980, p. 46 no. 67 and fig. on p. 47 (with frieze).

(47) P. Saintenoy, Les arts et les artistes à la Cour de Bruxelles, II, Brussels, 1934, p. 216, who -as usual- does not mention other sources.

(48) C. Herrero Carretero, Tapices donados para el culto de la iglesia vieja, in IV Centenario del monasterio de El Escorial. Iglesia y Monarquía. La Liturgía, Madrid, 1986, p. 94 and 115.

(49) Junquera 1986, p.48, series 9/III – Although it also contained gold and silver, its price of 15 pounds per yard was lower than half the price stipulated by Pannemaker.

(50) P. Murray, Zwei Gemälde des Abschieds Christi aus dem Dürerkreise, in Wallraf Richartz Jahrbuch, 16, 1954, pp. 209-212. Less dynamic is the effect in his Small Passion (B 21; 1511).

(51) Murray, Ibid., fig. 125; J. Jahn (ed.), Lucas Cranach d. Ae., Das gesamte graphische Werk, (Munich 1972), p. 43; exhibit. catalogue. Lucas Cranach d. Ae, Basel 1976, II, p. 457, n. 301. – Other examples given in Kirschbaum, L.C.I., I, col. 35-37 (“Abschied Jesu von Maria” by J. Emminghaus).

(52) J. Maquet Tombu, Bernard von Orley et son entourage, in Société royale d’archéologie de Belgique, Bernard van Orley, 1488-1541, Brussels, 1943, p. 156 and plate XXX.

(53) J. D. Farmer, Bernard van Orley of Brussels, Ann Arbor, 1988, p. 215.

(54) Junquera 1986, p. 48, Exhibition catalogue. Les tapisseries de la Vie du Christ et de la Vierge d’Aix-en-Provence, Aix-en-Provence, July-December 1977, cf. our article pp. 78-85.

(55) Madrid series 6, Junquera 1986, pp. 27-29; M. Calberg, La comparution du Christ devant Pilate. Tapisserie de Bruxelles du premier quart du XVIe siècle, in Bulletin van de Kon. Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis, 4e serie, 35, 1963, pp. 93-115 ; exhibition catalogue. Brusselse wandtapijten van de Pre-renaissance, Brussel, KMKG, 1976, pp. 67-73, no. 16; A. M. L. E. Erkelens, Een wandtapijt met de voetwassing, Brussel ca. 1520, in Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, 1959, pp. 62-63; Id., Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Wandtapijten. I. Late gotiek en vroege renaissance, Amsterdam, 1962, pp. 36-39.

(56) Madrid, series 7/IV, cf. Junquera 1986, p. 34. – For Trento, cf. E. Castelnuovo – M. Lupo, 1990, p. 320, (see note 17) with very lavish comparative illustrations of all the preserved Passion tapestries of the period.

(57) Calberg, op. cit., 1963, p. 99 and fig. 7 and 8, pp. 112-113; exhibit. Brussels 1976, pp. 70-71.

(58) The two other characters, the Veronica and the older man, are not organically linked either and seem to look directly at the spectator.

(59) Cf. exhibition, Brussels 1976, p. 102 and 105.

(60) Illustrations in M. Ainsworth 1990, pp. 50-53 (see our note 10). The tapestry with the Last Supper, which is now in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, did not belong to the three other tapestries from the Alva auction, yet it is generally believed to be part of the same series, cf. E. A. Standen, European Post-Medieval Tapestries and related Hangings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I, New York, 1985, pp. 65-73, no. 6.

(61) According to Farmer 1988, p. 309 and Ainsworth 1990, p. 50; Standen 1985, p. 70, does not take up a particular stand.

(62) We checked this in Alden Biesen on 17.12.1985. – Our thanks to C. Adelson, who showed us her manuscript about these tapestries, intended for the collection catalogue of the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

(63) Ainsworth rightly notes “he (Van Orley) limited these narratives increasingly more to highlights (…) and intentionally featured those moments of greatest emotional drama and human dilemma” (1990, pp. 50-51).

(64) Compare Standen 1985, p. 71 and Junquera 1986, p. 306. In the New York version, the cooler in the front has been left out and replaced by a plainer jug; but the aureole around Christ’s head was enriched with a halo.

(65) See our doc. 7 : Arnhem, Rijksarchief Gelderland, foundation Culemborg, vol. 246: Inventaire des meubles et de la maison et chastel de Hoochstraten.

(66) E. Kumsch, Die Dresdner Passionstepiche und ihre Beziehungen zu Dürer, in Mitteilungen aus den sächsischen Kunstsammlungen, IV, 1913, pp. 19-29: on p. 21 he poses the question if duke George the Bearded could have brought them in 1515, which is too early according to the presently known chronology; they were mentioned for the first time in an inventory in 1565 (p. 27). – The tapestry is 336 x 329 cm. – Please keep in mind Lucas Cranach’s journey to the Netherlands in 1508, which is a long time before Dürer, cf. J. Duverger, Lucas Cranach en Albrecht Dürer aan het hof van Margareta van Oostenrijk, in Jaarboek Kon. Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, 1970, pp. 8-13.

(67) J. De Coo,Twee Orley-retabels, in Jaarboek Kon. Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen, 1979, p. 68 and fig. 5.

(68) H. Goebel, Wandteppiche. I. Die Niederlande, Leipzig, 1923, I, p. 309.

(69) Gh. De Boom, op. cit., p. 137, n. 3. – Brussels, Archives générales du Royaume, Acquits de Lille, 524 I, fol. 50.


Captions of the Figures

Fig. 1. Prayer in Gethsemani. Brussels tapestry, by Peter de Pannemaker after a design by Bernard van Orley, 1520-1522. Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, series 10/1.

Fig. 2. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Prayer in Gethsemani. Woodcut, ca. 1501 (Geisberg XXV, 17).

Fig. 3. Albrecht Dürer, Prayer in Gethsemani, pen drawing, 1520, Karlsruhe, Staatliche Kunsthalle.

Fig. 4. The sleeping Saint Peter. Detail of fig. 1.

Fig. 5. A weeping woman. Detail of fig. 6.

Fig. 6. The Bearing of the Cross. Brussels tapestry, by Peter de Pannemaker after a design by Bernard van Orley, 1520-1522. Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, series 10/II.

Fig. 7. Bernard van Orley, Christ Falls under the Cross. Oil on wood, 1515-1520. Brussels, Kon. Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België, inv. 4999.

Fig. 8. The Bearing of the Cross, or the so called Spasimo di Sicilia. Brussels tapestry, after a painting by Raphael, 1516-1520. Vatican City, Musei e Gallerie Pontificie, inv. 3840.

Fig. 9. Jacopo de Barbari, Judith, engraving, before 1516 (Bartsch VII, 517,1).

Fig. 10. Calvary, Brussels tapestry, by Peter de Pannemaker after a design by Bernard van Orley, ca. 1518-1520. Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, series 10/III.

Fig. 11. Calvary, Brussels tapestry, by Peter de Pannemaker (?) after a design by Bernard van Orley, ca. 1520 (?). Dresden, Staatliche Museen (photo Deutsche Fotothek Dresden).

Fig. 12. Calvary, Brussels tapestry, ca. 1510. Forli, Museo Civico.

Fig. 13. Onlookers at the Calvary. Detail of fig. 10.

Fig. 14. Descent from the Cross. Brussels tapestry, by Peter de Pannemaker after a design by Bernard van Orley, 1518-1520. Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, series 10/IV.

Fig. 15. Descent from the Cross. Brussels tapestry, workshop of Pieter van Aelst, after 1507. Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, series 6/II.

Fig. 16. Joseph of Arimathea. Detail of fig. 14.

Fig. 17. Canopy with the Holy Father and Holy Ghost. Brussels tapestry, by Peter de Pannemaker after a design by Bernard van Orley, 1523-1524. Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, series 9/I.

Fig. 18. Calvary of the Canopy. Brussels tapestry, by Peter de Pannemaker after a design by Bernard van Orley, 1523-1524. Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, series 9/II.

Fig. 19. Justitia and Misericordia. Detail of fig. 18.

Fig. 20. Bernard van Orley. Calvary, Oil on wood, ca. 1524. Rotterdam, Museum Boymans- van Beuningen, inv. 1629.

Fig. 21. Bernard van Orley, Calvary (detail), Oil on wood, 1531. Bruges, church of Our Lady.

Fig. 22. The Farewell of Jesus and the Holy Women. Tapestry from Mechelen, by Julien Portois, 1521. Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, series 9/III.

Fig. 23. Jan van Coninxloo. Farewell of Jesus, Oil on wood. Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts, cat. no. 111.

Fig. 24. The Last Supper. Brussels tapestry, by Peter de Pannemaker after a design by Bernard van Orley, 1523-1524. Madrid, Patrimonio Nacional, series 45/II.



1. 1520, 1 September. – Margaret of Austria commissions Peter de Pannemaker to weave two tapestries with scenes from the Passion of Christ.

Marché fait et conclut par Madame avec Maistre Pierre de Pannnemaker, tapissier, demeurant en la ville de Bruxelles.
Assavoir que ledit maistre fera et accomplira deux pieces de fynne et riche tapisserie, du mesme estoffe qie desia mluy en a vendu deux pieces, de l’ystoire de la Passion pour le prix et somme l’aulne de xxxviii florins de xx patars , telle longueur, largeur et qualité que les patrons que pour ce luy sont baillés appartiendront.
Laquelle tapisserie sera faicte et parfaicte endedans ung an prouchain, vendu de telle bonté, manufacture et extimacion que les aultres deux dessusdictes pièces ou meilleur.
Itme, que pour avancement dudict ouvraige madite dame luy fera délivrer en bon compte et en tant moings du pris de ladite tapisserie, des maintenant la somme de deux cens florins dicte monnoie pour ahceter fil d’or et d’argent bons et exquis, pour employer à ladicte tapisserie, lesquels ii C florins luy seront rabatuz sur le payement de ladicte tapisserie.
Item, que lesdictes patrons se feront aux frais et despence dudit maistre tapissier.
Item, que ayant fait et parfaict la marché de presentement ouvraige, que pourra estre que ledit maistre tapissier affirme endedans sept ou huit mois prouchains madicte dame luy fera payer la moitié de ce a quou ladicte tapisserie pourra monter , selon sa mesure et au pris que dessus , desduisant lesdits ii C florins que luy seront payés que dessus.
Et quant ladicte tapisserie sera parfaicte , madame luy fera payer le surplus de ce a quoy elle montera au pris que dessudit luy faisant délivrer dicelle.
Itelm a este convenu et accordé que si madite dame ne treuve ladite tapisserie bien et exquisement faicte a son entendement, et de si bon estoffe que laultre, elle la pourra delaisser et abandonner au dit maitre tapissier qui en ce cas sera tenu luy rendre ce quil pourrait avoir receu a bon compte sur lestoffe et fasson de ladite tapisserie et ceroit en ce cas ce marché nul et de nul effect.
Lesquelles choses ainsi traictees et concluttes madicte dame en parolle de princesse et ledit maître pierre de pannemaker par sa foy et serement et soubz lobliogacion de tous ses biens presents et advenir ont promis et promettent assavoir chacun en sa qualité et selon quil est cydessus contenu furnir et accomplir sans farude deception ou mal engin.
Et ont signé ce resent traicté de leur nom le premier jour de septembre l’an XVc et vingt présents a ce noble Sr. Simon de Quingey, Sgr. de Mombaillon et premier maistre d’hostel de madicte dame et maistre Barnard d’Orley painctre. Ainsi signé Marguerite et peter de Pannemaker

(Brussels, Archives générales du Royaume, Acquits de Lille 524 II, fol. 23)

2. 1521, 3 January. – Confirmation of payment for a tapestry to Julien Portois, tapestry weaver in Mechelen.

Nous, Simon de Quingey, chevalier, seignuer du dit lieu et de Monbaillon, conseiller et et premier maistre d’ostel de Madame et chief-commis sur le fait de ses finances, certiffions, par ordonance de Madame, avoir marcahndé avec Julien Portois , tapissier résidant à Malines, une pièce de fine tapisserie, contenant dix aulnes, faictes de fil d’or et de soye, avec grand personnages, contenat l’histoire que Notre Seigneur dit adieu à sa précieuse mère qaund il alla en Jhérusalem pour y souffrir mort et passion, aux prix de 15 livres de 40 gros l’aulne, laquelle pièce madicte dame a retenu devers elle en ses mains . Fait à Malines, soubs notre seing manuel cy mis, de 3e de janvier, anno 21, stil de Rome.

(Brussels, Archives générales du Royaume, Etat et Audience, 1474-1)
(ed. by J. Duverger, 'Margareta van Oostenrijk en de Mechelsche tapijtnijverheid', Mechlinia, 10, nr. 4 , 1932, p. 57)

3. 1521, July – September. – Margaret of Austria pays Peter de Pannemaker 800 pounds for the purchase of gold and silver thread for tapestries ordered on 1 September 1520.

A maistre Pïerre Pannemacre, maistre tapissier residant à Bruxelles, la somme de huyt cent livres, de quarante gros monnaie de Flandre la livre, que Madame luy a ordonné prendre et avoir delle en payement sur et à bon compte de ce quelle luy pourra devoir, de cause de certaines pièces de riche tapisssrie quil a accordé avec elle de faire de telle ou meilleure estoffe que celle que desja elle a eut de luy, le tout selon les poincts, condicions et charges, au long déclarées au marché sur ce fait le premier iour de septembre XVc et XX. Et ce pour despence huyt cent livres pour fil dor et dargent bien exquis par luy acheté et employé en ladicte tapisserie. Et aultres et pardessu aultres IIc l. dudit pris que pour la cause que dessus madicte dame luy fait promptement délivrer. pout ce par quictance dudit maistre Pierre Pannemacker la dit somme de viii c L.

(Brussels, Archives générales du Royaume, Chambre des comptes 1797, fol. 209 r°)

4. 1522, July – September. – Peter de Pannemaker receives the balance for the order of two Passion tapestries on September 1520.

A maistre Pierre de Pannemaker, maistre tapisssier résidant à Bruxelles, la somme de six cens quatre vingtz quinze livres de xl gros monnoie de flandres la livre, que deue luy estoit de reste pour sa parpaie de XIXc IIIIxx XV livres, dudit pris a quoy monte l’achat que madame a fait avec luy de deux exquises pièces de tapisserie faitces de fil d’or et soie contenat icelle tapisserie ensemble LII aulnes demye, en laquelle est contenue l’histoire a assez grans personnaiges comment nostre seigner Jhesuscrist est au jardin d’olivet priant Dieu son Père et comment il porte la croix pour y recepvoir mort et passion. Et ce par marché que mad.dame a fait au prix de XXXVIII livres dud.pris l’aulne , que reveinnent à ladicte somme de XIXc IIIIxx XV livres, lesquelles deux pièces de riche tapisserie icelle dame a retenues devers elle en ses mains et les luy a led.Pannemaker faictes, furnies et livrées ce tout selon les promectz, conditions et charges, au long déclairées au marché sur ce fait avec luy le premier jour de septembre XVc XX lequel il a rendu. Sur laqsuelle il a desja receue la somme de XIIIc livres dicte monnoie dont ce tresorier a prouffité assavoir sur le roole des mois de juillet aoust et septembre XVc XX, IIc l. , sur celle desdits mois anno XXI VIIIc livres, sur celle des mois de janvier fevrier et mars anno XXII stil de Romme C l., et sur celle de ce present mois aultre II c l. Ainsi luy estoit deu de reste ladicte somme de VIc IIIIxx XV livres, por ce par quictance dudit maitre pierre de Pannemacker, avec certifficacions du chief comme sur le fait des finances dicelle dame et du contrerolleur de la despence ordinaire de lhostel de mad. dame sur ce servans icelle somme de VIc IIIIxx XV livres.
(Addition:) Madame ce cest son bon playsir pourra faire mectre ceste tapisserie en linventaire de ses tapisseries et autres riches bagues et joyaux.

(Brussels, Archives générales du Royaume, Chambre des comptes 1798, fol. 217-219)

5. 1524, October- December. Peter de Pannemaker receives the balance of payments for a woven baldachin.

A maistre Pierre de Pannemaker, tapisssier de Madame, résidant à Bruxelles, la somme de trois cent huit livres du prix de quarante gros monnoie de Flandres la livre, que par lexprers commandement et ordonnance de madicte dame aud. tresourier et receveur general luy a baillé content, que deue luy estoit de reste pour sa parpaie de VIc VIII l. dudit pris a quoy monte l’achat que icelle dame a fait de luy d’ung riche ciel de tapisserie avec les goutières, contenans ensemble XVI aulnes, de mesme estouffe que les deux riches et exquises pieces de tapisseries, faictes de fil dor et de soye qu’il luy a nagueres faictes et livrées en ses mains, lequel ciel est pour servir à lad. riche tapisserie, et ce par marché faict avec luy au prix de XXXVIII l. de quarante gros laulne, par le Sr. de Rosimbos, premier maistre dostel et et chief commis sur le fait des finances de madicte dame, recevant a lad. de VIc VIII l. sur laquelle il a desja receue la somme de IIIc l. dicte monnoye dont ledit tresorier a prouffité sur le roole des mois de juillet aoust et septembre XVc XXIII: CL l., et sur celluy des mois davril may et juing a° XVc XXIII aussi CL l. , lequels ciel et gouttières icelle dame a retenu devers elle en ses mains, et les luy a faictes et livrées le tout selon les promectz, condicions et charges au long declairées au maché sur ce fait avec luy le Xe jour daoust XVc XXIII.
Lequel il a rendu es mains de madicte dame pour ce par quictance dudict mainstre pierre de Pannemarcker (sic). Et certificacions dudict chief commis sur le fait des finances dicelle dame, et contrerolleur de lostel de madicte dame sur ce finance , ladicte somme de IIIc VIII l.

(Brussels, Archives générales du Royaume, Chambre des comptes 1800, fol. 216 r° - 217 r°)

6. 1523-24: Extract from the inventory of the palace of Margaret of Austria in Mechelen.

(…) Riche tapisserie ouvrée de fil d’or d’argent et de soie, nouvellement achetée par Madame.
(1) Premier, une belle et riche pièce de tapisserie de V aulnes de hauteur et de V aulnes I cart es chars de largeur historiée, comme Nre Sgr pourtoit la croix à sa Passion
(2) Item, une aultre pièce de V aulnes eschars de haulteur et de V aulnes I cart de largeur historié, comme Nre Sgr estoit au jardin d’Olivet
(3) Item, une aultre pièce de tapisserie de V aulnes & cart manges de haulteur et V aulnes d. quart de largeur historiée, de la deposicion de Nre Sgr de la croix.
(4) Item, une aultre pièce de tapisserie de mesme de V aulnes escharsse de haulteur et de V aulnes de largeur historiée, comme Nre Sgr pendoit en croix.
(5) Item, une aultre petite pièce de memses, de III aulnes 1 cart demi de haulteur et III aulnes 1 cart de largeur, historiée aussi, comme Nre Sgr pend en croix.
(6) Item, une aultre petite pièce de haulteur une aulne de(mye) et d(eux) quart de largeur II aulnes, historiée, comme Nre Sgr pourtoit la croix
(7) Item, une aultre petite pièce de riche tappisserie de deux aulnes III quart de haulteur et III aulnes de(mye) de largeur , historié, comme Nre Sgr print congié de sa glorieuse mère.
(8) Item, une aultre petite pièce contenant 1 aulne en carrure histroiée de Nre Sgr et de Nre Dame (…)
(9) Item, depuis cest inventoire fait a receu ledit garde-joyaulx ung riche ciel de tapisserie contenant de haulteur ... aulnes et de largeur ... fait par Pietre Pannemarie à Bruxelles, ouquel est figuré Dieu le Père et le St. Esprit, environnez de plusieurs anges

(Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Cinq Cents Colbert, 128, fol. 130 v°- 131)

7. 1531. - Peter de Pannemaker receives payments for a tapestry of the Last Supper, delivered to the emperor Charles V.

A Pieter de Pannemacker, pour une riche pièce de tapisserie d’or d’argent et de soye, contenant XXVIII aulnes ou est la Cène que N.S. feist a ses apostres le blanc jeudi qu’il avoit evndu à l’empereur à XXXVIII l. de xl gros l’aulne

(publ. by J. Houdoy, Les tapisseries de haute-lisse, Lille-Paris, 1871, p. 145)

8. 1548. – Inventory of the castle at Hoogstraten.

Tapisseries seruans à la chapelle auec autres petites pièces.
Une piece de tapisserie de fil dor et de soye, la figure de lemission du st esprit que notre seigneur envoya a ses appostres.
Item, une autre pièce de tappisserie aussi de fil dor et de soye, la figure de notre seigneur estant avec ses trois apostres priant dieu son père au gardin dolivet
Item, encoires une grande pièce de tappisserie de fil dor et de soye, de la passion nostre seigneur estant en croix, les deux larrons a dextre et a senestre.
Item, encoires une autre pièce de tappisserie de fil dor et de soye aussi de la passion notre seigneur, de la descente de la corix et quil alla delivrer les saints peres hors du limbe
Item, encoires une grande pièce de tappisserie de fil dor et de soye de la passion et vengeance de notre seigneur
Item, une autre petite pièce de tappisserie de fil dor et de soye, a la louenge de notre dame, de une aulne de large, et cinq quartiers de long.

(Arnhem, Rijksarchief Gelderland, fonds Culemborg, vol. 246, fol. 8 r°)



Since this essay from 1992, the here described tapestry set has been analysed again in

A. Tapestry in the Renaissance. Art and Magnificence (exhibition catalogue), Thomas P. Campbell ed. et alii, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New Haven & London, Yale Univ. Press, 2002, p. 304-321:

Entries by Maryan W. Ainsworth about the “Alva Passion” and related Square Passion of Madrid. The author refers to the PhD thesis of Thomas Campbell (The English Royal Tapestry Collection: 1485-1547, London, Courtauld Inst. , 1998, pp. 93, 190-92) for a new hypothesis about the pedigree of the Alva set: it may have belonged to king Henry VIII of England, sold after 1649 to the Spanish ambassador in London and eventually to the Alva collection. - In the here above cited 1548 inventory of Hoogstraten, the Crucifixion is described as Christ hanging between the two thieves (“nostre seigneur estant en croix, les deux larrons a dextre et a senestre.”). This happens indeed in the Alva set too, but not in the older “Square Passion” of Margaret. Unfortunately, the 1548 inventory does not mention the dimensions of the tapestries (G.D.)


B. Dagmar Eichberger, Leben mit Kunst, Wirken durch Kunst. Sammelwesen und Hofkunst unter Margarethe von Oesterreich, Regentin der Niederlande (Burgundica V, ed. J.M. Cauchies), Turnhout, Brepols, 2002, p. 248-251:

The author rejects the attribution of the Calvary and the Descent to Van Orley, because of their archaic elements – the question remains then, however, if this is not Van Orley: to whom to attribute the kneeling figure left of Magdalen and the standing figure right of John at the Descent of the Cross?



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