6. "HERNE'S OAK"
The third in a series of
eight tapestry panels "The Merry Wives of Windsor",
which, with No.1 "Queen
made a total of nine, gold medal winning, exhibits at The Paris
Exhibition of 1878.
Artist: T. W. Hay
Subject: Act V, scene V, Windsor Park. Falstaff
crouches in the little dell or "pit hard by Herne's Oak"
surrounded by Anne Page and her troop of fairies, all masked,
with waxen tapers burning on their heads, some carrying flaming
torches. He is disguised with a buck's head, from under which
he peers at the scene, only to have one of the flaming torches
thrust near his face. Anne Page, dressed as the Fairy Queen,
is attended by her brother, and Sir Hugh Evans-dressed like a
satyr-a tall figure with a great beard carrying a shepherd's
crook-on the right of the scene. Mistress Quickly and Pistol
are among the eleven figures active in the complex picture. In
the foreground are many flowers of the local woods and fields
including foxgloves, mallows, wood violets, forget-me-nots, daisies,
cornflowers, orchis and feverfew. Herne's Oak is in the background,
with the Round Tower of Windsor Castle on the skyline (right)
where a bat flits by. The smoky glare from the tapers and torches
heighten the atmosphere of the midnight revel, while Falstaff
is subjected to Anne Page's directions to "Pinch him, and
burn him, and turn him about, Till candles, and starlight, and
moon-shine be out" ...
Cartoon: Not known
Size: 5 ft. 12 in. high (picture only,
without the border, which is detached) by 8 ft. 8 in.
No side borders when seen.
Warps: 16 per inch
Colours: Generally to give the effect of
the taper and torch lit revel in the half light of a summer night,
with grey-blue tints of green and brown and red, with spots of
reddish orange light from the flames, and the twilight of the
western sky. There is enough light to show Falstaff's red cheeks,
the masked features and blue, green buff and grey costumes of
the players, the green leaves of Herne's Oak behind Anne Page
with the garlanded curve of the top of her bower above the gold
of her headress, and the bright spots of colour from the flowers
in the foreground.
Border: Detached when seen, with the ribbon
"Herne's Oak" in the centre of the lower border in
dark reddish purple letters on a light ground with bands of gold
on a blue background. The borders consist of alternate squares
and rectangles containing branches of fruit-apples, plums, gooseberries
and cherries with sprays of four and five petal flowers and roses
in the squares.
Marks: T. W. Hay, bottom right, by a questing
snail; in the bottom left corner is the Windsor mark of a stylised
crown above _l l_ Windsor Tapestry 1877 No. 4, H. Henry, M. Brignolas,
all in small deep reddish purple letters.
Exhibited: Windsor Guildhall, December 1878
Ownership: Commissioned by Gillow & Co.,
of Oxford Street, London. Bought complete with the entire decor
of the Prince of Wales' dining room in the British Pavilion at
the Paris Exhibition 1878 by Sir Albert Sassoon for the dining
room of his mansion at 25 Kensington Gore.
References: Furniture Gazette, 26 January
and 7 September, 1878
WE, 9 November and 7 December, 1878
Art Journal, 1879, p.64
Painting by Micael
Vicarey after an engraving in the Illustrated London News, "Exhibition
of Tapestry at Windsor"
An engraving in the Illustrated
London News, 14 December, 1878, entitled "Exhibition of
Tapestry at Windsor" shows this tapestry to the left of
a centrepiece consisting of a bust of the
Queen draped with flags, in front of the Royal Arms in the Windsor
Town Hall Council Chamber
with plants in the foreground, flanked by two tall carved pillars
bearing palms. Under the
tapestry is a large label "GOLD MEDAL". In the foreground
the Windsor Tapestry Manufactory
President, Prince Leopold, later Duke of Albany, is being welcomed
by the Mayor of Windsor
John Wellman, with others in the group.
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