Of the hundreds of tapestries woven for princely patrons in France in the fourteenth century, very few exist today.* The most important surviving examples are the superb series of the Apocalypse from Angers. If one excludes a few Germanic fragments of the twelfth to the fourteenth century and a few French examples, these are the oldest European tapestries known. Matchless in conception and composition, they demonstrate the magnificent achievements of the Paris ateliers in the fourteenth century.
1-24. SCENES FROM THE APOCALYPSE. Museum of Tapestries, Angers
The Apocalypse tapestries, which probably consisted originally of seven large hangings, were made to decorate the halls of the castle at Angers. The set was commissioned about 1375 by Louis I, Duke of Anjou, from the Parisian weaver and merchant Nicolas (sometimes called Colin) Bataille. According to the records, Louis borrowed a manuscript of the Apocalypse from the library of his brother, Charles V, King of France, for use in designing the tapestries and employed the king's painter Hennequin of Bruges (identified as Jean Bandol) to paint the cartoons. The date of the completion of the set is a matter of dispute. The fourth hanging, all the parts of which are shown in the exhibition, must have been woven before 1384, as it bears the cipher, an interlaced L and M, of Louis I of Anjou, who died in that year, and his wife, Marie of Brittany. It is probable that the last hanging was finished by the end of the fourteenth or the beginning of the fifteenth century.
The tapestries are said to have been taken to Arles for the wedding of Louis II of Anjou and Yolande of Aragon in 1400, but they were returned at once to the castle of Angers. Yolande, who died in 1442, willed the tapestries to her son René, and in 1474____________________