The early 16th century Hunting tapestry commissioned by the Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I to be offered by Aguttes estimated at €800,000-1m.

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The wool and silk tapestry is large at 32ft 9in long x 10ft high (10 x 3.05m) but is only part of a set of eight weavings that measured more than 100 metres in total and took several years to complete.

The set, which depicts imperial hunting scenes in the forest of Soignes near Brussels, was ordered along with other tapestries by the Habsburg Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) from the Tournai ateliers in Flanders.

It was possibly destined for the gallery of the Castle of Wels in Austria.

Payment to the Tournai weaver Arnould Poissonnier is recorded as taking place in 1510.

This section, which represents only 10% of the complete design, shows the emperor and members of his family and court engaged in hunting in the forest accompanied by their horses, dogs and birds of prey with the nearby castle of Bouchout depicted at the top left.

It gives a picture of the accoutrements and fashions of the nobility in the late 15th and early 16th century as well as depicting a wealth of spring flora and fauna.

It will be offered for sale by the French auction firm Aguttes in its Haute Epoque auction in Neuilly-sur-Seine on December 9 with an estimate of €800,000-1m.

Ownership tussle

The tapestry passed through various French collections, either by descent or via auction, during the 17th and 18th centuries and also has an interesting later history.

Around 1870 this and another panel were acquired by Pierre- Edmond Teisserenc de Bort (1814- 92), who was the French ambassador tin Vienna 1879-80.

In early 1942 two intermediaries acting for Marshal Goering tried to negotiate a purchase. The owner, who had no intention of disposing of them, sought the help of the administration of Fine Arts which accepted, in mid-June 1942, the classification of the tapestries as historic monuments, which prohibited their leaving the territory.

Under pressure, the owner ended up donating it to the French State at the end of June 1942. Very unhappy with this interference, Goering threatened the Vichy government with reprisals, which considered that it was not possible to keep the tapestries.

On the orders of President Laval, the regional prefect who kept the pieces had them handed over to Goering’s envoys at the end of July, and an order for the declassification of the tapestries was taken in mid- August 1942 to allow them to leave France.

Given back

After the war, they were found by the Monuments Men. A lengthy trial ended in 1955 with a judgment which recognised that the donation was fictitious, that there had been no sale and that The State was to ensure, at its own expense, that the tapestries be put back in place and that the damage caused by their removal repaired.

One of the tapestries, restored in Austria, was returned in 1961.

The other, the panel to be offered by Aguttes, remained in storage at the Mobilier National in Paris until it was repaired and returned to the heirs in 1967, passing down by descent.