Workshop of Willem de Pannemaker (Flemish, active 1535–78, died 1581)
Made/manufactured: Brussels, Southern Netherlands
Wool, silk, silver, silver-gilt thread
20–22 warps per in. (8–9 per cm); 14 ft. 5 in. x 17 ft. 8 in. (439.4 x 538.5 cm)
Bequest of George Blumenthal, 1941 (41.190.135)
The story of the love affair between the god Mercury, son and messenger of Jupiter, and Herse, one of the three daughters of King Cecrops of Athens, is told in the Metamorphoses of Ovid; however, the particular scene depicted in The Bridal Chamber of Herse is not described in the text. Basing his composition and the figure of Herse on Caraglio's print after Raphael's Marriage of Alexander and Roxana, the unknown tapestry designereither an Italian follower of Raphael or a Flemish artist working in an Italianate stylecreated a palpable moment: Mercury steps from his sandals as he rushes forward toward his beloved; cupids remove his cloak, draw back the bed hangings, and take off a modest Herse's slipper. Woven in Brussels in the preeminent tapestry atelier of Willem de Pannemaker (whose mark appears in the lower right corner), the tapestry demonstrates the weavers' virtuosity in depicting the details of the lush interior, replete with elaborately patterned wall hangings and bed furnishings. The borders are thematically unrelated to the main scene. The side figures, representing the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity and the Cardinal Virtue of Justice, are copied from designs first used for one of Raphael's Acts of the Apostles tapestries; in the lower border, the figures of Love, Fortitude, Temperance, and Diligence are based on another source and are probably Flemish in origin.