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Romantic English

King Arthur (from the Heroes Tapestries) RE260396

King Arthur (from the Heroes Tapestries) RE260396

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In the annals of medieval tapestries, one masterpiece reigns supreme: King Arthur, woven into the fabric of history itself. Crafted in the South Netherlandish tradition around 1400–1410, this regal depiction now graces the hallowed halls of The Met Cloisters in Gallery 18.

Picture this: a panorama of Nine Heroes, plucked from the annals of Classical, Jewish, and Christian lore. From the valor of Hector of Troy to the sagacity of King Arthur himself, these tapestries breathe life into the legends of old. A testament to chivalry and leadership, they serve as beacons of inspiration for the noble and upper classes.

But the tapestry doesn't stop there. In the late fourteenth century, French poems sang the praises of Nine Heroines, embodying ideals of chastity, humility, and loyalty. Hans Burgkmair, the celebrated German artist, etched their stories into woodcuts, ensuring their place alongside their male counterparts.

Fast forward to The Cloisters, where these ancient artifacts find sanctuary. Remarkably preserved, though only five heroes remain intact, each sits enthroned beneath ornate canopies, emblems of authority adorning their regal attire. Originally part of three grand tapestries—one for each tradition—these woolen wonders served both as decoration and insulation against the chill of stone interiors.

Scholars speculate about their origins, hinting at a royal connection. Perhaps crafted for Jean, Duke of Berry, son of John II, King of France, these tapestries bear his heraldic banners, a testament to their noble provenance.

And there, amidst the tapestry's intricate threads, King Arthur holds court. Bishops and cardinals surround him, a tableau of power and piety. Joined by the likes of Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon, they form the Christian Heroes tapestry, a tapestry of legend and legacy.

Thanks to the generosity of Jane and Michael Horvitz, the King Arthur tapestry underwent meticulous restoration, a labor of love by The Met's Textile Conservation Department. As efforts continue to preserve these relics of antiquity, their stories endure, woven into the fabric of time itself.

King Arthur (from the Heroes Tapestries) RE260396

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