The Lovers

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Basel (present-day Switzerland)

The Lovers, 1490/1500

Hemp, wool and silk, slit and double interlocking tapestry weave
105.3 x 78.9 cm (41 1/2 x 31 1/8 in.)
Gift of Kate S. Buckingham, 1922.5378

This tapestry presents one of the most basic and eternal aspects of life, a pair of lovers pledging their fidelity to each other. The scene is set against a dense and colorful hedge of flowering acanthus. Within the context of lovers voicing their mutual regard, their courtship and pursuit of each other are represented metaphorically by the images of falconry and the chase, on one hand, and the taming of a wild animal into a lap pet, on the other. The style of the couple’s clothing predates the weaving of the piece, which suggests that its design was based on earlier sources. Tapestries of this type were frequently woven by women who were often, although not exclusively, of high social status. This particular example was probably part of a dowry or trousseau, serving as a testament to both its owner’s elevated social standing and her virginity.

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