Shepherds Purse: tapestry - Rustic Sports (Les Joyeux Bergers)

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(all figures are from Digby)

Digby has the following description:

"H. 11 ft 2 in. (3.41 m) W. 11 ft 3 in. (3.43 m). Wool and silk: 12 warp threads to inch (5 to the cm). Condition: Good. cleaned and repaired in the Tabard workshops at Aubusson, 1962-3. Description: Peasants are washing their feet and disporting beside a stream. A nobleman stands on the right, holding a couple of greyhounds on leash with a horn hanging at his belt. Another (both carry swords) with hawk on fist, talks to a lady on a bridge in the middle ground; a lure can be seen in his pouch. On the left a man shoots at a duck in the river with a crossbow, a retriever by his side; on the right two woodsmen or hunters emerge from the forest with a pair of hounds. A mill, a house and peasants in the wooded background. For the shepherd's crook and implements carried by the peasants, see the previous tapestry. Museum acquisition. 5668A-1859. Bought with 5668-1859 from the Soulages Collection (£25).

"Further information: There are two rather similar tapestries, with peasants playing and hunting or hawking scenes in the background, in the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (W.A. Clark Collection); they are listed as numbers three and four in M.C. Ross's article in the Corcoran Bulletin. The fourth comes from the same cartoon as the tapestry illustrated by H. Göbel (I, ii, pl.240), only the Corcoran tapestry has about one-third of the subject missing on the right side, and the Göbel piece is cut slightly at the top; the latter was formerly in the collection of Genevieve Garvan Brady, New York. The other two Corcoran pieces of the series are hunting tapestries. Among the tapestries brought together in the Tournai Exhibition of 1970, Les Bûcherons from the Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs is nearest in date, but more archaic and summary in style. The Burssels (Cinquantenaire) Sheepshearing piece of a generation or more earlier (3rd quarter of 15th century) shows the pastoral genre at its best. The tapestries with peasant scenes of approximately similar date, now in the Stockholm National Museum and cleveland Museum of Art (illustrated by H. Göbel, I, ii, pl.241, 242) are not really comparable and are of coarser style and execution."

Joubert and Warburg also discuss it, but I have not yet worked through the French and German texts.

There are two definite, and one possible, shepherds purses in this item. In addition, there are several men wearing hunting gear and carrying hunting-style pouches (swivel-frame) if anything. Several women wearing semi-nice clothing wear no pouches. Two men wearing "rustic" clothing (e.g., with lower leg wraps) and associated with sheep and shepherds' crooks wear pouch-belts with attached implements hanging from rings.


A man is kneeling and removing a woman's stocking. His pouch is light colored and appears to have a "flap" with a scalloped edge. Rings are fastened to the "flap" from which are hung: a small square object with an 8-pointed star design, a double-sided comb, a round lidded box, a cyllindrical object possibly a knife in sheath.

A man wearing a hat with a turned-up brim wears a pouch made of a darker material (or possibly just in shadow) that shows draping folds but no obvious "flap" mark. Rings are fastened to the upper part, from which are hung: a cyllindrical object, not like the lidded boxes but the same size, a small square or cubical object with a round mark on one face, a turned spindle-shaped object part of which is hidden, a small round object.

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In addition, there is a woman leaning over a bridge with a belt-like item indicated. It may be a pouch-belt fastened with narrow strap, with indeterminate objects attached (but these may simply be "noise" in the picture), or it may be just a strap (possibly of a pouch-belt) or even simply a belt.


Digby, George Wingfield. 1980. The Tapestry Collection: Medieval and Renaissance. HMSO, London. Plate 32-33 (cat. no. 20)

Joubert, Fabienne. 1987. La tapisserie médiévale au musée de Cluny. Éditions de la Re/union des musées nationaux, Paris. p.124, fig. 116

Warburg, A., 'Arbeitende Bauern auf Burgundischen Teppichen' in Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, vol. xviii, Leipzig, 1906, pp.41-7.