Case Study 01

Verdure with Thistles, about 1490-1520

Made in Brussels, Brabant, or Bruges, Flanders, Southern Netherlands, now Belgium


271cm x 249 cm

This tonal blue and cyanotype looking tapestry was one I first discovered at The Burrell Collection, Glasgow. It captured my attention because of its contrasting style to the traditional tapestries being made around the same time. 

Verdure means ‘lush green vegetation’ and the depiction of a thriving garden or foliage sits within this tapestry. This tapestry could have once been rich with different hues of greens but perhaps due to age and light exposure, these threads of wool now have a blue hue to them.

Quinton states that although these thistles appear naturalistic they are not botanical representations of any known species of thistle. From this we can understand our maker, or funder of the tapestry, wanted to take a more stylistic approach to their designs. The tapestry is more of a work of art, a design feature to have in the home, rather than an accurate portrayal of species or plant. Its motive is decorative and full of life, thistles bursting onto the tapestry.

During the late 1400s and early 1500s, designs featuring foliage became popular in interior design, filling the home with a harmonious and cohesive pattern. Other known tapestries that are presumed from this set are now in the Danish Museum of Art and Design, Copenhagen. Another set of tapestries featuring thistles are known to have been commissioned by Margaret of Austria in 1509, and another by her nephew Charles of Habsburg, later the Holy Roman Emperor, in 1518.

Quinton, Rebecca, Introducing European Tapestries, pg. 39

© Jess Hay
artist based in Glasgow