© KHM-Museumsverband, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Gemäldegalerie (CC BY NC SA 4.0)

Tapestry Cartoons

Jan Cornelisz. Vermeyen, 1546 — 1550
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Given the minimal chances of painted sixteenth-century cartoons, used for weaving tapestries, surviving to the present day, a preserved ensemble of ten, with a total width of 7.730 meters and a height of 3.85 meters, is highly exceptional. The original twelve tapestries, executed by the Brussels weaver Willem de Pannemaker, indeed constituted the most expensive and largest tapestry series commissioned by Emperor Charles V. They were to depict the young emperor’s four-month military campaign, followed by the conquest of the city of Tunis from the Turks in 1535. The aim was to extol the emperor as a strategist and protector of the Christian world.

The commission for the designs went to Jan Cornelisz. Vermeyen, a painter in the service of the Habsburg Court, who had accompanied the emperor to document his campaign and conquest. In 1546 he was asked to prepare cartoons. With the aid of sketches he had made on the journey, Vermeyen was able to precisely depict the course of the battles and the locations, in which he was assisted by artists such as Pieter Coecke van Aelst.

— Ingrid de Meûter, Former Curator of Tapestries and Textiles, Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels