Set of four tapestries

Flanders, Netherlands

Date: mid 17th century

Origin: Flanders, Netherlands

Venue: Astley Hall Museum and Art Gallery

The four Tapestries situated in the Drawing Room of Astley Hall date from the mid-17th Century and depict the mythological story of Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece. They were made in Flanders (Northern part of Belgium) and according to the records of the Victoria and Albert Museum there are only two other similar sets in England one of which belonged to the Earl of Iveagh and the other to Denham Place. Astley Hall’s collection is unique in that it comprises a complete set, rendering them an important collection.

Tapestry is a weaving technique usually worked with a plain coloured wool warp over which colourful weft threads are woven to create elaborate and detailed pictures. The weft thread was often wool but could also incorporate silk for extra detail and depth. The weft is usually woven back and forth across small areas at a time to create blocks of colour that make up the larger scale image. Tapestry weaving was a highly skilled profession and therefore the end product would have been an expensive and luxurious investment. A beautifully detailed set of hangings like these would have been a huge status symbol and a recognized display of both wealth and good taste.

It is believed that they were purchased in the mid-17th Century to complement the major redecoration of the Great Hall and Drawing Rooms. The marriage of Margaret Charnock and Richard Brooke instigated this redesign at a time when Charles II was on the throne. Known as the ‘party king’ opulence and indulgence was very much in vogue. Scenes from Classical mythology were one of the most popular designs for tapestries during this period and the set at Astley depict key moments in the story of the Ancient Greek hero Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece.

In 1922, when Astley Hall was given to the people of Chorley as a war memorial, the tapestries were kept by Reginald Arthur Tatton and taken to his home, Cuerdon Hall. When Cuerdon Hall was sold to the Ministry of Defence in the 1940s, some of the Tatton collection was sold at auction. In 1947, the tapestries were purchased from Christie’s Auction House by Chorley Council for the sum of £595. They were subsequently returned to their original location, the Drawing Room of Astley Hall, where they still hang today. Astley Hall’s collection is remarkable in that a large proportion of it is directly connected to the families that once lived there. The tapestries form part of this indigenous collection. They blend perfectly with the flora, fauna and putti demonstrated in many guises throughout the hall.

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