The series of tapestries depicting Jacob's History

Published on: 28 / 05 / 2010

Authors of this entry:
  • Magdalena Palica

One of the most famous series of tapestries based on the sketches by a celebrated Netherlandish artist Bernard van Orley (also known as Barend), lwas transferred by the end of the 19th century to the collection of counts Thiele-Winkler and located in their palace in Moszna (Moschen in German). Presently it is the pride of Royal Art Museums in Brussels.

The series of tapestries, executed in the manufactory of Willem de Kampeneere, dedicated to the biblical history of Jacob and his family, had formerly adorned the palace of Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggi (1474-1539), the Papal legate at Henry VIII court. After his return from England, the cardinal would have received Palazzo d’Inghilterra as a reward for his merits. The tapestries were undoubtedly commissioned for the palace furnishing. After the death of the Vatican diplomat the gobelins were transferred to the barony of the Malvezzi-Campeggi family in Bologna, in via Zambogni 22, today housing Faculty of Law, of the Bolognese University.

Between 1898 and 1900 the tapestries were purchased by Count Thiele-Winkler from Moszna (Moschen in German). Their large dimensions precluded the series’ exhibition in one of the main palace chambers. Some of them adorned the vestibule, greeting visitors of the residence. The remaining gobelins were hung in other palace rooms, among them in the so called lord’s room. In numerous archival photos (see more images) the individual scenes, adherent to the former series of ten gobelins, can be easily identified:

1. Jacob’s blessing by Isaac.

2. Jacob leaving his family house. The Jacob’s ladder.

3. Jacob welcomed by Laban, after meeting Rachel.

4. Jacob and Laban dividing their flock.

5. Jacob leaving secretly to Canaan.

6. Laban covenanting with Jacob

7. Esau forgiving Jacob.

8. Scenes from the life of Jacob’s daughter Dina.

9. Joseph’s mantle smudged with blood.

10. Jacob finding Joseph in Egypt.

In 1917 the tapestries had been transferred to the Swiss residence of the Thiele-Winkler family in Meggen, from where they were aquired in 1950 by the Belgian government. Presently they are housed in Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire in Brussels. Those who aren’t planning a visit in the capital of Belgium in nearly future, are highly recommended to visit the virtual library of images of the Royal Institute of Art. The images of the whole series of tapestries, as well as individual gobelins and their details, are available to see at the website.


Max J. Friedländer, Die altniederländische Malerei, Vol. 8: Jan Gossart, Bernart van Orley, Berlin 1930, p. 129

Marthe Crick-Kuntziger, Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire de Bruxelles, catalogue des tapisseries. XIVe-XVIIIe siècles, Bruxelles 1956, pp. 42-46

Guy Delmarcel, Flemish Tapestry from 15th - 18 th Century, Tielt 1999, pp. 121-122.

I address my extreme gratitude to Dr. Magdalena Piwocka for providing me all necessary information on the presented tapestries.

Project co-financed by Ministry of Labour and Social Policy under Government Project – Civic Benefit Fund.
All information published under license: Creative Commons