Dais of Charles V (Baldachin of Margaret of Austria)

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Dais of Charles V (Baldachin of Margaret of Austria)
This tapestry set better known as the Baldachin of Margaret of Austria, and later as the Dais of Charles V, was commissioned by the regent Margaret, aunt of Charles V. A baldachin (from the Italian baldacchino) is a canopy of state made of sumptuous cloth elevated above a throne or altar to honor the sitter (prince or prelate) seated below this textile. Margaret’s commission of a baldachin made of expensive tapestry weavings was the ultimate expression of elegance and consumption at the Malines court.

The marriage of the Emperor Maximilian I and Mary of Burgundy represented the single most important dynastic alliance of the late Middle Ages, uniting the Burgundian court with the house of Habsburg in 1477. Their daughter, Margaret of Austria, who assumed the regency of the Netherlands in 1504 until her death in 1530, established her residence in Malines (or Mechelen), transforming this city into the cultural center for the arts in Northern Europe.

Archduchess Margaret of Austria, one of the most important female collectors of the early Renaissance, created an impressive collection which bridged two traditions: the late medieval treasury, or schatzkammer, filled with the immense collections of her Burgundian ancestors, and the early Renaissance kunstkammer, a chamber of art containing paintings, sculptures and priceless Flemish tapestries.

Margaret’s second marriage to the heir of the Catholic Kings of Spain, Prince Juan, in 1497, exposed her to the splendor of Isabella of Castile’s court. Isabella’s Flemish paintings, but especially her extensive tapestry collection with over 370 panels, represented this queen’s need to display her magnificence and powerful rulership. As patron, Isabella undertook commissions, which reflected her strong sense of dynasty and dynastic continuity. Margaret’s two-year residency in Spain marked an important stage in the development of her own tastes and collecting activities. Her close ties to the Spanish court and Isabella’s example reaffirmed the direction her court patronage would take after 1507 in the Netherlands. In 1501 Margaret left Spain lavished with gifts from the Catholic Kings, mostly superb Flemish tapestries which formed part of the nucleus of her later collection.

Margaret’s inventories dating 1516, 1523-24 and 1530document the tapestries she inherited from the Burgundian Dukes, the fifteen panels she had been given as gifts at the Spanish court, and others she had specifically commissioned for her residence in Malines. During her regency, Margaret actively began to order tapestries at different weaving centres in Flanders, and many were displayed in her state bedroom and other rooms of her apartment in the palace she had built. The palace of Savoy (or Palais de Savoie) was one of the first Renaissance palaces in Northern Europe. By the end of her life, Margaret owned close to 130 outstanding tapestry cycles.

This tapestry set of three panels better known as the Baldachin of Margaret of Austria, and later as the Dais of Charles V, was commissioned by the regent Margaret from the Brussels tapestry weaver-manufacturer Pieter de Pannemaker, her personal tapissier, and the lesser known Malines weaver, Julien Portois, who wove the third panel (“Christ taking leave of his Mother”). The Baldachin was meant to be part of an another tapestry cycle comprising of four hangings that depict the Passion of Christ, better known today as the Square Passion, or the Passion of Margaret of Austria, on display at the Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso. All were listed in an inventory of the Malines palace drawn up in 1523, for which residence Margaret ordered these devotional panels hung in her quarters and private chapel.

The Square Passion and this Baldachin represent a new trend in tapestry commissions after 1515, when the demand for smaller devotional tapestries, rather than large ones with panoramic views, grew. Tapestries destined for the private use of elite collectors and patrons became the trend, and in order to hang these in more intimate spaces, smaller dimensions were called for. Both sets are remarkable examples of this transitional style. Fine effects of tinting in the threads were obtained by means of hatching, implementing the use of woven vertical lines to give the figures greater volume and three-dimensionality. Margaret’s Baldachin is a landmark commission ushering in a new Renaissance style influenced by Raphael in Rome and the German painter-engravers, Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach.

Evident here as well is the impact of a more personalized form of religiosity and prayer, known as Devotio Moderna, which influenced the Habsburg court in Flanders through the writings of Erasmus. This spiritual movement began in the late Middle Ages, emphasizing a more direct, personal relationship with God. Practitioners stressed the inner life of the individual, and promoted meditation and prayer according to individual precepts rather than the strictures of the Church.

The almost square format adopted in the Baldachin and the Square Passion allows the viewer a more spiritual engagement with the woven religious scene before them, where figures are brought very close to the foreground planes and the viewer is drawn into the image. The life of Christ and the mysteries of the Redemption were favorite themes for these new tapestries. With the implementation of this novel style, which imitated in weaving painted religious panels intended for private chapels, patrons could personally empathize with the sufferings and passion of Christ.</p>


P. Junquera de Vega and C. Herrero Carretero, Catálogo de Tapices del Patrimonio Nacional. Volumen I: Siglo XVI, Madrid, 1986, pp. 45-48.

A. Jordan Gschwend, “Mujeres mecenas de la Casa de Austria y la infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia”, in El arte en la corte de los Archiduques Alberto de Austria e Isabel Clara Eugenia (1598-1633): un reino imaginado, Madrid, 1999, pp. 118-138.

C. Herrero Carretero, Tapices de Isabel la Católica. Origen de la colección real española. Tapestries of Isabella the Catholic, Madrid, 2004, pp. 59- 69 and pp. 111-113.

F. Checa, Tapisseries Flamandes pour les Ducs de Bourgogne, L’Empereur Charles Quint et le Roi Philippe II, Brussels, 2008, pp. 86-95.

D. Eichberger, “Margaret of Austria and the Documentation of her Collection in Mechelen”, in Fernando Checa, coord., Los inventarios de Carlos V y la familia imperial / The inventories of Charles V and the Imperial Family, Madrid, 2010, pp. 2351-2363.

D. Eichberger, “Margaret of Austria’s Treasures. An early Habsburg Collection in the Burgundian Netherlands”, in Fernando Checa, ed., Museo Imperial. El coleccionismo artístico de los Austrias en el siglo XVI, Madrid, 2013, pp. 71-80.

G. Delmarcel, The Passion Tapestries of Margaret of Austria (c.1518-1524) - New Data and Documents (after 2005)

Series Dais of Charles V (Baldachin of Margaret of Austria)

Models Bernard van Orley (1491-1542)

Manufacture Pieter de Pannemaker, Brussels, 1518-1524

Fabric Gold, silver, silk and wool

Location Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Origin Collection of Margaret of Austria, later inherited by Charles V in 1530


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