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Flight into Egypt

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©V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London


The Biblical theme chosen to decorate this cushion cover shows a moment in the long trek to Egypt undertaken by Mary and Joseph with the baby Jesus to escape the fury of King Herod. However, it depicts the story against a very English background and in clothing very close to that of the 16th Century. Joseph's tools are shown in great detail.

A larger companion piece, now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, showed three earlier scenes in the story of the Nativity, each placed under an arch - the Annunciation (the Angel Gabriel tells Mary she will give birth to Jesus), the Adoration of the Kings after the birth and the Adoration of the Shepherds. http://metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/120045197

The direct source of the design was copied from a print engraved by Hieronymus Wierix (1553-1619) of Antwerp .

As with so many tapestries, it is not known who owned it in the sixteenth century, nor where it was found in the early years of the twentieth. Nevertheless, it became a key piece in the attempt to establish the style of tapestries produced at Barcheston because the three letters - T E I - scarcely visible at the top of the arch, were identified as those of the Jones family of Chastleton, thought to be the owners of the much larger tapestry, the Judgement of Paris, supposedly purchased close by, at Barcheston, the nearest production centre.

This assumption made it possible to associate two motifs - the arcade which frames the central scene and the hunting scenes - which came to be thought characteristic of the Sheldon style.

There are, however, several differences between the hunting scenes here and those on other tapestries, such as the Prodigal Son or on the valance.

Nor are the figures in contemporary dress in the corners typical of the majority of examples known in the 1920s. No tapestries with similar borders have been found since.

Museum number T.191-1926

17 ½ x 19 ½ inches, 44.5 x 49.5 cms
Wool and silk
Gospel of Matthew 2.13


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