Thursday, February 5, 2015

Unusual Artifacts: Pyramus and Thisbe Valance, 1560

Pyramus and Thisbe
Panel from a Bed Valance, 1560
French, possibly made for Queen Catherine De Medici
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This piece of satin textile is one of a set of panels that once formed part of the decoration of a bed valance—a kind of pelmet round the top of bed curtains. The image is embroidered in colored silk on a red satin ground and depicts the story of Pyramus and Thisbe. Pyramus, thinking that Thisbe was dead, committed suicide by falling on his own sword. This scene is shown within a frame held by men in stylized Roman military dress.

Other decorative motifs pictured include a laughing mask, birds, dolphins, ox skulls, an altar, a vase and draperies and figures of nudes and monsters in the Grotesque style which had been introduced to France between 1550 and 1575, based on Italian artifacts. Given the style, it is possible that this panel may have been part of a set made for Queen Catherine de Medici (1519–89, daughter of the Italian Lorenzo de Medici, later Queen Consort of France), or for another high-ranking member of the French court. Further evidence comes from the fact that in the Nineteenth Century, this fragment was bound in an album inscribed “RICAMI DEI MEDICI.” (‘embroideries of the Medici’). A gold braid was added in the Nineteenth Century.

No comments: