Fusing narrative and stereotype, this drawing partakes of a long pictorial tradition blending the chase, festive leisure, and chivalric love. Particularly in tapestries, the tradition of amorous pursuit flourished from the Middle Ages well into the sixteenth century. As the Lehman drawing does not relate to any known tapestry, we must turn to its numerous alterations to provide a clue to its use. It is possible that a draftsman was asked to copy a tapestry cartoon representing the subject in reverse. Upon finishing the copy, he modified its details, particularly certain heads, possibly portraits, in order to disguise or modernize the older version for the benefit of a new commission. The Lehman Bear Hunt was probably made in Brussels, sometime around 1470-90, the only known drawing to document the transition between one version of a tapestry subject and the next.
Marking: Annotated in pen and brown ink in a sixteenth-century hand on the verso on the drawing itself, where the backing has been partially removed: francois à becke.
Mary Mitchell (Mrs. Chauncey J.) Blair, Chicago and Chambésy (Geneva), by 1914; Blair sale, American Art Association/ Anderson Galleries, New York, 15-16 January 1932, lot 289 (as Jan Beeck, Flemish, ?-1516). Acquired by Robert Lehman in 1932.
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