Story of Abraham Series
We can see that the characters in this series are depicted with anachronistic clothing and belongings in the Renaissance “Roman” style. The scenes of the life of Abraham are all set outdoors, a pretext for an intense depiction of landscapes with groves and fields featuring flowers and plants.
As is normal in Flemish tapestry designs from this period, the borders have become wide, compartmented bands which, on a floral background, contain depictions of figures and animals housed in aedigulae and pergolae. They are allegories and moral stories, covered with decorative elements related to figures from the typical Renaissance repertory, and originating from ancient times, such as the Physiologus, a Greek collection of moralized beast tales. These were in fashion at the time, following the diffusion of works such as Alciatus’ Emblemata. Characters depicted include Victory with her palm, Justice with her sword, Vulcan and Venus with Cupid, and Jupiter and Juno with the peacock.
Furthermore, these borders feature moralizing inscriptions related to bestiaries. These include: a fox clutching a bird while another bird flies away (with the inscription sua et alienaulciscitur – “punishing others, one punishes oneself”); a lizard (lucisegens – “deprived of light”); a stork killing a snake (ne cuiquamnoceat – “lest it harm anyone”); a unicorn bending its head (durum alienavivereope – “it is difficult to rely on the help of a stranger”); and a goat standing on the milk it has itself produced (in desciscentes – “inconsistencies”). In the lower part of the border, we see Tellus – Mother Earth – depicted with the horn of plenty, and in the upper part we see an allegory of the Gate of Paradise.
As pointed out by the scholar Guy Delmarcel, the weavers Léon van den Hecke and Philippe van der Cammen lost a series about the life of Abraham in Antwerp in 1576, when the city was sacked by mutinous Spanish soldiers. It may be suggested, therefore, that the tapestries from Lleida are this exact series. As for the incorporation of this series into the Cathedral of Lleida, it is most likely that the Story of Abraham series was a donation by the Bishop of Lleida and Archbishop of Tarragona, AntoniAgustín, who was in Lleida from 1561 until 1576, given the chronology of the series and the fact that we know they were in Lleida in 1588. This cleric’s refined culture and city travels – including a stay in Brussels – further support this hypothesis. Furthermore, we know that tapestries featured among the possessions auctioned after his death, nine of which were acquired by Archbishop Terés, his successor at Tarragona Cathedral.
C. Berlabé, “Los tapices de la Seu Vella. Un recorrido por la colección” in X. Company and I. Puig (eds.), El arte de la tapicería en la Europa del Renacimiento. I Seminario internacional sobre tapicería y Artes Textiles, Lleida: Universitat de Lleida, 2010, pp. 85-106
C. Berlabé, “Las colecciones eclesiásticas de tapices del siglo XVI en el entorno de la Corona de Aragón. El caso de la catedral de Lleida” in F. Checa and B.J. García (eds.), Los triunfos de Aracné. Tapices flamencos de los Austrias en el Renacimiento,eMadrid: Fundación Carlos de Amberes, 2011, pp. 117-145
G. Delmarcel, Tapisseries anciennes d’Enghien, Mons: Fédération du Tourisme, 1980, p. 96
VV.AA:“ElsTapissos de la Seu Vella” in Tapissos de la Seu Vella, Barcelona: Fundació “La Caixa”, 1992
VV.AA: La col·lecció de tapissos de la Seu Vella de Lleida, Barcelona: Fundació “la Caixa”, Museu de Lleida: diocesà i comarcal, 2010
Series Story of Abraham
Manufacture Philippe van der Cammen, 1560-1570. Enghien workshop
Composition Silk and wool
Location Diocesan and Comarcal Museum of Lleida
Origin La Seu Vella, Lleida