Forest Scene with Herons

Forest Scene with Herons is the fourth tapestry that Michel Demoortel has donated to the King Baudouin Foundation as part of his named fund, created within the Foundation, with the objective of protecting and promoting the heritage of Enghien.

The tapestry can be attributed with certitude to a workshop in Enghien. It carries both the signature and the hallmarks of the workshop of Henri van der Cammen (1603-1676), son of the renowned weaver Philippe van der Cammen.

The work is one which we had lost sight of. It was part of a series of eight Landscapes with Animal Fights which was dispersed, but three of the series are currently in keeping at the Château of Gaasbeek, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art respectively. The town of Enghien reached the height of its production with this series of very high quality tapestries – the last big series from the Enghien workshops to have been preserved up to the present day.

In the foreground, two herons stand on the banks of a river: one is holding a snake or an eel in its beak whilst front right we can see an otter in the bushes, holding a fish between its teeth.

This theme corresponds to a genre that was often used in Flemish tapestries from the middle of the 16th century, notably “animal fights in a landscape”. A well-known example of this type of tapestry series is the Greenery with Wild Animals kept at Wawel Castle in Cracow. The two narrow bands of tapestries of this ensemble, representing herons, display many similarities with the Enghien work. It can be supposed that, thanks to the good relationships he had with tapestry workshops in Brussels, Henri van der Cammen was able to obtain the cartoon for this series with the objective of producing a number of variants.

The architectural motif of this tapestry border enables us to date it to the second quarter of the 17th century. In Flemish tapestry, such a portico with torsaded columns was first used in the famous Brussels series Triomphe de l’Eucharistie, made after Peter Paul Rubens’s models and produced in the years 1625-1628.

This tapestry with herons reappeared on the English art market alongside another piece in the same series. Both were part of a private collection. It is likely that the series Paysages avec combats d’animaux was commissioned from the van der Cammen workshop in 1644 by the town of Enghien and the neighbouring communes as a gift for Philippe-François d’Arenberg, to mark his promotion to the rank of duke by Emperor Ferdinand III. The cost of the tapestry however was more than 3000 livres, but such a sum could not be raised because of the war. In 1645, the Duke himself purchased the series for a total of 2000 livres.

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

Further information about the Michel Demoortel Fund

Material / technique: 
Wool and silk
358 x 260 cm
Type of acquisition: 
Donated by Michel Demoortel
Year of acquisition: 
Depository institution: 
Maison Jonathas, Enghien