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A rare early 18th century chinoiserie Soho tapestry probably designed by John Vanderbank depicting brightly coloured exotic islands with plants and birds inhabited by richly dressed courtly figures with their attendants with others processing carried on a litter, gathering fruits and riding in a fantastic carriage pulled by leopards, all against a dark brown ground within a polychrome scrolled leaf border.

Note: Restoration to the lower border.

This wonderfully whimsical tapestry was almost certainly woven under the direction of John Vanderbank (active 1683-1717) at the Soho tapestry works at the beginning of the 18th century. By the very end of the 17th century the tapestry weavers of Soho and its surrounding streets had begun to usurp the dominance of the Mortlake factory that had been established under royal patronage in 1619. English tapestry production was much less prolific than on the Continent making such survivors very rare.

Vanderbank was the yeoman arras worker at the Great Wardrobe from 1689 until his death in 1717. He may probably be identified with the John Vanderbank who was naturalized in 1700, having been born in Paris, the 'son of Arnold Vanderbank by Mary, his wife'. The tapestry workshops of the Great Wardrobe were at Vanderbank's house in Great Queen Street, Holborn (at approximately the present No. 69), from at least 1698 onwards. He was the leading tapestry weaver in England and by the introduction of the lighter and less formal style, now referred to as chinoiserie, he exercised a powerful influence on the style of the Soho weavers. He is known to have supplied tapestries to the great houses of Boughton, Belton and Burghley. The earliest mention of such tapestries is in the 1690s when Vanderbank suppplied a set of nine tapestries 'in the Indian manner' to the recently built Kensington Palace. A further set of related Chinoiserie tapestries presented in 1953, entitled ‘The Concert’, may be seen in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum, New York (53.165.1) A magnificent set of similar tapestries by Vanderbank, known as ‘The Yale Tapestries’, were commissioned by Elihu Yale, the founder of Yale University, and passed by descent with the Earls of Guildford until 1924 before they entered the University's collection.

Literature: Exhibition catalogue, 'The Antique Dealers Fair & Exhibition', Grosvenor House, London, 1970, illus. p. 104.
‘The Grosvenor House Handbook’, London 1994, p.153.

Exhibitions: The Antique Dealers Fair & Exhibition, Grosvenor House, London, June 1970.
Vigo Sterberg Galleries, London, 1971, no. 24.

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