Large Leaf Verdure with Animals and Birds

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Tournai or possibly Bruges
Southern Netherlands (now Belgium)

Large Leaf Verdure with Animals and Birds, 1525/50

Wool, slit, single dovetailed, and double interlocking tapestry weave
599.15 x 336.4 cm (235 7/8 x 132 3/8 in.)
Gift of the Antiquarian Society of the Art Institute of Chicago through the Jessie Landon Fund, 1934.4

This visually rich tapestry is filled by large leaves, vividly colored flowers, and winding shoots, a style known as large leaf verdure. Numerous real and fantastic animals—including falcons, griffins, lions, monkeys, peacocks, pheasants, and unicorns—fly, hide, and perch amidst the greenery of the purely imagined plants. Only a handful of tapestries with the same animals and composition are known, though the same large leaf motif was used for the background of several tapestries depicting religious scenes, as well as in other tapestries to represent what was thought to be a realistic jungle background. It is thus impossible to determine whether this hanging and its companion pieces served a symbolic or decorative function—although these purposes are clearly not mutually exclusive.

— Exhibition label, The Divine Art: Four Centuries of European Tapestries, November 1, 2008–January 4, 2009, Regenstein Hall.