Camel Riders, presumably from a Wild Man series, 1475/1510

Wool, slit tapestry weave; two selvages present, top and bottom edges
343.5 x 248.9 cm (135 1/4 x 98 in.)
Robert Allerton Fund, 1929.611

Camel Riders, presumably from a Wild Man series

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This tapestry includes two merchants dressed as wild men in tunics, riding camel-like animals. The identification of the men as merchants is supported by the merchant’s mark on a bale at the left of the scene. Wild men are mythical creatures believed to have inhabited the woods and mountains of Europe. Depictions of wild men lend themselves to two opposing narratives: uncivilized beasts existing outside society, and peaceful creatures living harmoniously with nature. Contemporary accounts—which reveal a fascination with imaginary creatures—record men and women dressed in wild costume for carnivals, courtly events, and other festivities. Despite the aggressive gestures and hostile manners of the men, this scene may represent a mock joust in which merchant rivalry was harmlessly expressed during an urban feast.

— Permanent collection label