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Medieval Treasures from Hildesheim

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Vanity Sounds the Horn and Ignorance Unleashes the Hounds Overconfidence, Rashness, and Desire (from The Hunt of the Frail Stag)

Date:
ca. 1500–1525
Culture:
South Netherlandish
Medium:
Wool warp, wool and silk wefts, one place embroidered in wool yarn
Dimensions:
Overall: 118 x 150in. (299.7 x 381cm)
Classification:
Textiles-Tapestries
Credit Line:
Bequest of Mary Stillman Harkness, 1950
Accession Number:
50.145.4
  • Description

    This tapestry fragment is part of a series that symbolically represents man's life on earth as a stag hunt. Man is depicted here as "the fragile stag" at the upper left bounding through the woods. The stag is being hunted by Desire, Rashness, and Overconfidence, the hunting dogs set loose by Ignorance, portrayed as an elegantly dressed woman at the bottom center of the tapestry. Dominating the scene at the right is another courtly lady, Vanity, who sounds the hunting horn.

    The verses inscribed in French on the banderole above read in translation:

    "The dogs that she held leashed in the woods Dame Ignorance has set loose after the stag; they are Desire, Rashness, Overconfidence,
    Who, filled with worldly pleasure, make him take many a leap and crossing; and then Vanity comes forward to sound the horn as she knows how to do."

    As the text suggests, this allegorical story warns the viewer against the vices that threaten man's progress in life. It is also a reminder of human frailty. This fragment is one of two fragments from the same series. In the other fragment, currently on exhibition at The Cloisters, Old Age drives the stag out of a lake, and the hounds Heat, Grief, Cold, Anxiety, Age, and Heaviness pursue him.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: [on banderole across the top, in two lines]: LES CHIENS QUI TENOIE ACOUPLES DEDANS LE BOIS DAME IGNORANCHE APRES LE CERF A DESCOUPLEZ CE[S]T VOLOIR HASTE OUTRECUIDANCE/ QUI PLAINS DE MANDAINE PLAISANCHE LUI FONT MAINT SAULS [SAULT?] ET TRAVERS FAIRE ET LORS VATINE SI S'AVANCHE DE COTNER ELLE SCET FAIRE.
    [on dress of woman holding dogs on leash]: DAME IGNORANCE
    [on leashed dogs]: HASTE, VOLOIR, OUTRECUIDANCE
    [on shirt of woman blowing horn]: VANITE
    [on dogs in front of her]: HASTE, VOLOIR, OUTRECUIDANCE
    [on stag at upper left]: CERF FRAGILLE

  • Provenance

    Charles André, Paris (until 1914); his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris (May 18-19, 1914, no. 180); [ Wildenstein & Co., Paris (by 1925)]; Mary Stillman Harkness(until 1950)

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
468327

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