Tapestry (The Nativity)

Jan van Roomec.1520

Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest

Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest
Budapest, Hungary

In the finest pre-renaissance tapestry of the Museum of Applied Arts the depicted scenes are enclosed by a border of flowers and fruits. In the middle there is a type of the Nativity scene that had spread upon the influence of late medieval mysticism: the newborn Saviour lying on the ground is adored by his mother the Virgin Mary and angels. On either side a Sibyl is standing holding a banderole with the text of her prophecy in her hands. In the top left corner the Adoration of the Magi, in the right corner the Annunciation are seen. An exact analogy of the tapestry can be found in the Museo Diocesano in Trento as the first piece of a seven-part cycle mainly depicting Christ’s Passion. The cycle was purchased by Bernardo Cles, the prince-archbishop of Trento (1514– 1539) from Joris van Lickau, a merchant of Antwerp in 1531. The tapestries were made earlier: the piece showing the Carrying of the Cross features the date 1507, and in another one the name of the leader of the weaving workshop, Pieter van Aelst (c. 1450–1531/1533) can also be read. The origins of the tapestry can be traced to 15th century Flemish painting: the Annunciation adjusts to the popular composition of Rogier van der Weyden (1399/1400–1464), while the central depiction was influenced, among others, by Robert Campin (c. 1375–1444). The prototype for the Adoration is an item in Albrecht Durer’s engraved cycle of the life of the Virgin (about 1500–1502). The structure and space creation in the tapestry and the figures preserving gothic characteristics fit well in the oeuvre of Jan van Roome of Brussels, court painter of Margaret of Austria (demonstrable between 1498 and 1521), who can be identified with the help of sources. 39 The tapestry presumably went to the Cathedral of Győr from Bishop Demeter Napragyi’s (1559–1619) bequest in 1619. In 1914 Francis Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, purchased it and donated it to the Society of the Friends of the Museum.


  • Title: Tapestry (The Nativity)
  • Creator: Jan van Roome
  • Date Created: c.1520
  • Location Created: Brussels, Belgium
  • Provenance: Purchased by Emperor Francis Joseph I in 1904 and presented to the Association of Museum Patrons in 1914.
  • Production Note: Tapestry woven in the workshop of Pieter van Aelst.
  • Place Part Of: Belgium
  • Physical Dimensions: 275 x 260 cm
  • Inscription: 'UTERUS VIRGINIS ERIT STATERA CUNCROTUM' (The holy uterus of the Virgin is the ransom for all of us), DEUS NASCETUR EX VIRGINE HEBREA (God will be born of a Hebrew virgin)
  • Subject Keywords: tapestry, Middle Ages, Biblical scene, New Testament,
  • Type: Textile
  • Rights: Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest, 2013, CC-BY-NC-SA-4.0
  • External Link: Highlights of the Collection, tapestries from the collection of the Museum of Applied Arst, Budapest
  • Medium: Wool, silk and metal thread, tapestry weaving, warp density: 10/cm.
  • Art Genre: applied arts
  • Art Movement: pre-renaissance

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