17th-Century Flemish Tapestry
Appraised Value: $2,000 - $4,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (2:55)
Elisabeth Poole Parker
GUEST: I went to an auction, and at the preview I saw the piece, and then I went into the house and I looked at what was in the house. And when I came out, the auctioneer's assistant was bundling this up in a bundle and tossing it in the garbage under the steps.
APPRAISER: Oh, dear!
GUEST: So I went to him and said, "Hey, put that back in the auction." And he said, "What would you want that old thing for?" So I said, "Never mind, just put it back in the auction." So when it came up for bids, no one bid on it, so I bid five dollars, and I was the only bidder.
APPRAISER: Well, you had a great stroke of luck, I think by getting this for five dollars. Do you have any idea what it is or where it comes from or the date?
GUEST: The information is that it came from a Huguenot family who immigrated, probably, from either Switzerland or Belgium in 1637. They immigrated to New York, and then in the 1800s they came to Canada.
APPRAISER: Okay. Well, it's very plausible that they brought it with them from Belgium. When this was woven it was known as Flanders. So what we have here is a 17th-century Flemish tapestry. Dating it, it could be prior to 1637 when they came. It is fragmentary. It must have been much larger at one point. You can see by looking at the back how the sides are fairly tattered, and you don't see the original selvage. With moving so often, the nice thing about tapestries is that they're very portable. To fit less-palatial places they would have to cut them down. This is constructed by warps, which are the vertical threads which are strung across a loom and then the weft is what makes the design. With each different color, it's a different weft thread so they will come around and continue one certain color and then work again in a different color later. They're typically working from a cartoon, which sits behind the loom, so they're given a design to work from. I think what's nice about this piece is that it has very nice color retention. I think the colors are very bright. It's of a type of tapestry called a "verdure," known for being very lush, with lots of foliage.
APPRAISER: Another thing that you can notice here is this brown here is slightly different than the other parts of the tapestry. This is an area that's been restored...
GUEST: Oh, really?
APPRAISER: ...mainly because dark browns were made with an iron mordant, so, over time, when exposed to air, they would deteriorate, and you can see here there's some old brown here that's starting to deteriorate, so this is where they restored the tapestry. I think today, at auction in New York, something like this, because it's fragmentary, would sell for a little bit less than one that's complete. But probably between $2,000 to $4,000.
GUEST: Mm, great, great. (chuckles)
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