|Updated October 1, 2005|
|The Mackay Gothic Tapestry Collection - Harbor Hill, p.1|
|The Story of David and Bathsheba in five scenes,
Great Hall of the Mackay mansion at Harbor Hill, c.1930
| The very large tapestry pictured above was woven in Brussels in the last quarter of the Fifteenth Century. Its dimensions are 15 x 30 feet (460 x 920 cm).
"Hung on the walls of a castle or manor house, tapestries not only served the practical function of insulation, preventing dampness from entering the room, but also constituted a visible and portable declaration of their owners wealth and taste."
- Metropolitan Museum of Art website.
Mr. Mackay died before his world famous collection of arms and armor could be properly catalogued. But, thankfully this was not the case with his spectacular collection of Gothic tapestries. The great Heroes of the Middle Ages were the Nine Preux or nine worthies (neuf preux). These were:
I. Three Bible Heroes, Joshua, David, Judas Maccabeus.
II. Three Pagan heroes, Hector, Alexander, Caesar.
III. Three Christian heroes, Arthur, Charlemagne, Godfrey de Bouillon.
Three of these Heroes were the principal personages of three of the Gothic tapestries at Harbor Hill: Arthur, Hector and David.
Mr. Mackay had a limited edition book privately published in New York in 1925 that catalogued his world class collection. The title is Tapestries of Clarence H. Mackay. The author, George Leland Hunter, was the foremost tapestry expert of the early 20th century.
The book is a large format (12" x 17") book filled with color and black and white plates detailing Mr. Mackay's twenty three tapestries as well as his large collection of tapestry covered Flemish and Louis XVI sofas and chairs.
A list of his tapestries and tapestry covered furniture includes:
I. A fouteenth century Gothic tapestry, King Arthur.
II. A fifteenth century Gothic tapestry, Hector and Andromache, in two scenes. From
the famous Trojan War series. To view and read background, click here.
III. A fifteenth century Gothic tapestry, The Story of David and Bathsheba, in five
IV. A Gothic tapestry rich with gold and silver, the Adoration of the Magi (fragment).
V. Two Gothic Life of Christ tapestries.
VI. Three Gothic Country Life tapestries from Chateau de Chaumont.
VII. Six Beauvais-Berain Italian Grotesques.
VIII. Five Gobelin-Coypel Don Quixote tapestries.
IX. Three Beauvais-De Menou Conquest Of The Indies tapestries.
X. Flemish Renaissance, Beauvais, and Aubusson Furniture Coverings.
The first question many ask is, "Where are these tapestries today?" Online research reveals the following:
The King Arthur tapestry (I.) is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Story of David and Bathsheba (III.) is in the National Museum in Stockholm, Sweden. Two of Mackay's five Don Quixote Gobelin tapestries (VIII.) are in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. However, I have not located the other tapestries. If anyone has information concerning their whereabouts, please contact me. I will post the results here.