Altar Frontal: Scenes from the Childhood of Christ

Altar Frontal: Scenes from the Childhood of Christ

c. 1500

Wool, silk, gold thread; tapestry weave

Overall: 107.3 x 240 cm (42 1/4 x 94 1/2 in.)

Bequest of John L. Severance 1942.826



Pictorial tapestries were symbols of wealth and more highly prized than paintings. Small tapestries with Christian imagery were frequently commissioned to decorate the front of altars. This example displays the Massacre of the Innocents, the Flight into Egypt, and Christ among the Doctors. The crowding of figures and continuous foreground flowers are characteristic of Franco-Flemish tapestries woven around 1500. Tapestry weave is ideal for creating narrative scenes. The weavers copied life-size pictures, or cartoons, sideways so that the warp would run across the width, which facilitated weaving wall-size tapestries.

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