The mediaeval tradition lasted well into the sixteenth century, and its final expression in tapestry is exemplified in two great series of hangings, the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Saint Remi, that were made for churches in Rheims. The Paris weavers who made the set of the Story of Saint Mamas for Cardinal Givry and the celebrated Diana set for Diane de Poitiers, as well as those who worked at Fontainebleau for Francis I ( 1515- 1547) and produced the series known as the Gallery of Francis I, adopted the new renaissance style and were much under the influence of French painting of the school of Fontainebleau. In spite of the excellence of their productions, during the Renaissance the weavers of France found themselves competing with the equally skilled but more extensively patronized weavers of Brussels. As a result, French production rapidly declined in the second half of the sixteenth century.
84-91. THE LIFE OF THE VIRGIN. Rheims Cathedral Treasury
The set of tapestries depicting the life of the Virgin to which these hangings belong was presented in 1530 to the cathedral of Rheims by the archbishop Robert de Lenoncourt ( 1509- 1532), to be hung in the great church during high festivals and ceremonies of state, especially the coronation of the king. It was undoubtedly designed and woven by the same artists who made the set showing the life of Saint Remi which was presented by the same archbishop to the church of Saint Remi at Rheims. Whether these artists had their atelier at Rheims is not known.
The seventeen hangings in the set made for the cathedral, eight of which are included in the exhibition, represent the attributes of the Virgin and episodes in her life taken from accounts in the canonical and Apocryphal gospels, the Bible of the Poor, and the Speculum humanae Salvationis ("The Mirror of Human Salvation"). They show not only the main events in the Virgin's life but the episodes, chiefly from the Old Testament, which prefigured them and the prophets who foretold them. The coats of arms in the tapestries are those of Archbishop Lenoncourt and the metropolitan