Forest Scene with Cephalus and Procris

This is the third Enghien tapestry to be offered by Michel Demoortel within the framework of the fund bearing his name, and created within the Foundation, with the objective of protecting and promoting the heritage of Enghien. It similarly bears the hallmark of the town of Enghien, as well as the monogram of an unidentified weaving workshop. The tapestry was probably created during the second half of the 16th century and is characteristic of the tapestries produced in Enghien at this time.

The tapestry shows a « forest scene with exotic animals », a new genre that had great success during the 16th century. From a pictorial point of view, large compositions such as this constituted a sort of animal encyclopaedia that reflected contemporary knowledge about the animal kingdom.

At the edge of a pond a heron and a number of exotic animals are to be seen. Further back, in the undergrowth, we can make out a couple with a spear: the woman is accompanied by a hunting dog. Behind them, another hunter, followed by two dogs, prepares to throw his javelin. The figures evoke the story of Cephalus and Procris, one of the themes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Suspecting his young wife Procris of infidelity, Cephalus decides to put her to the test. When her innocence is established, Procris offers her husband a very fast racing dog and a javelin. It is this javelin which, when thrown by Cephalus during a hunt, mortally wounds Procris. The story warns of the damaging effects of conjugal jealousy and thus gives the tapestry a further dimension.

The decoration around the borders of the tapestry consists of “scrolls” that were characteristic of the period. This ornamental motif imitates metal framework interlaced with flowers and fruit and contains small niches for allegorical figures representing the virtues of Love, Faith, Temperance, Strength, Justice and Hope. These borders are identical to those of two forest landscape tapestries filled with animals in the Middelburg Town Hall in the Netherlands. As these two pieces do not bear the hallmark of the workshop, they were initially, and erroneously, attributed to Brussels workshops. However, on the basis of this Enghien tapestry, which carries the hallmark of the town of Enghien and a weaver’s monogram, the Middelburg tapestries have finally been reattributed to an Enghien workshop.

Publication « Paysage des lissiers d'Enghien. Fonds Michel Demoortel »
Website Maison Jonathas

Further information about the Michel Demoortel Fund

Material / technique: 
Wool and silk
340 x 396 cms
Type of acquisition: 
Donated by Michel Demoortel
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
Maison Jonathas, Enghien