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Collections   Conservation

THE DIANA TAPESTRIES

In 2002 the Society embarked on a nine-year project to conserve the eight panels of the Diana series of Flemish tapestries, part of the original furnishings of Anderson House. A team of conservators, most notably the staff of the Textile Conservation Laboratory at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, performed the meticulous work of cleaning, stabilizing, and repairing the delicate fibers of these four-hundred-year-old tapestries, which once again dazzle visitors to Anderson House.

These brilliant panels of wool and silk depict scenes drawn primarily from classical mythology. The series' namesake, known as Diana to the ancient Greeks and Artemis in ancient Rome, was the goddess of the moon, hunting, and childbirth. This daughter of Zeus and twin sister of Apollo, referred to as the "Virgin Huntress," was also the patroness of unmarried women and chastity.

The first four tapestries in the Diana series recall elements of Diana's legend. It is said that at Diana's birth, she asked Zeus not for robes or jewelry, but a tunic, boots, a bow, and a quiver of arrows. In the first two tapestries, Diana, with her hunting dogs at her side and a crescent moon over her head, prepares her bow and wounds a satyr. The third tapestry in the series highlights the maidens that usually accompanied Diana, as one ties the sandals of the resting goddess. Diana holds an infant in her lap in the fourth tapestry, a scene that acknowledges her love of children.

The sources for the last four tapestries, which depart from the Diana theme, are more difficult to identify. Two panels depict women fleeing from a dragon and the warrior who killed it, and two follow a man and a woman through a garden. It is unknown who created the cartoons, or painted pictures of the finished scenes, from which the Andersons' Diana series tapestries were woven, but the designs may have been drawn from several different sets of older Flemish tapestries.

Woven around 1600 in the Brussels workshop of ateliers Jacques Guebels and Jan Raes, the Diana series was commissioned by King Louis XIII of France. The town mark of Brussels and Brabant and both weavers' marks appear in the border of each tapestry. Cardinal Francesco Barberini, then serving his uncle Urban VIII as Italian legate to France, purchased the Diana series around 1630. The panels remained in the Barberini family palace in Rome until 1889, when Charles M. Ffoulke bought the Diana series and more than 130 other tapestries. Ffoulke, a Massachusetts Avenue neighbor of the Andersons, brought the tapestries to America to fill his home and those of his fellow collectors. Read More<

From the

Anderson House Collection

From the Museum Collections

Imari bowl and stand
Made in Japan, mid 18th century

Larz and Isabel Anderson also collected Asian art, including this Imari bowl—one of a pair of large porcelains on a teakwood stand that the emperor and empress of Japan gave to the couple when Larz Anderson retired from the diplomatic corps in 1913.

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