In ancient times, since the 13th century, hunt scenes were a very popular subject in tapestries. Many scenes in French tapestries show nobles departing for the hunt, or returning from the hunt. Dogs and horses as well as servants or ‘beaters’ as they were known all accompanied the day outing. Castles of the patron king or nobleman (who commissioned the tapestry wall hanging) were often incorporated in the scene.
A famous series known as the ‘ The Hunts of Emperor Maximilian’ tapestries were woven for King Louis XIV of France (1638-1715). Designed by the famous artist Bernard Van Orley, they were woven at the Royal Gobelins Manufactory in Paris.
The theme in this famous wall hanging tapestry called ‘Le Retour au Chateau’ (The Return to the Castle) commemorates the Royal Hunt in the Soignes Forest near Brussels in Belgium. Although the hand woven tapestry subject is of a French King, the Italian influence is clearly evident in the richness and elegance of the costumes. The beautiful border is typical of the Italian Renaissance style with birds, flowers and fruit. The Renaissance which started in Italy has wide reaching effects centuries later as it spread its way across Europe in France, Belgium, England, Germany and Spain.
Regardless of the subject matter, French tapestries and Italian tapestries remain an elegant decorating element which we still enjoy today.