This very large Flemish tapestry, woven with wool warps and wool and silk wefts and rendered mostly in muted tones of blue, brown and beige, is one of three in Gardner’s collection based on the Story of Noah. This tapestry pictures a large bearded and curly-haired Noah in the front center, shown from his left and back. He wears a loosely belted flowing beige robe and kneels with both arms raised toward the rainbow. Two cherubic figures, shown from the waist up, hover above the rainbow. The full figure of another angel, clothed in a long white robe and with white feathered wings, floats above Noah’s head and towards the rainbow. The colors of this rainbow have largely faded, and it is now an arc of light and dark beiges.. Three young women, Noah’s daughters-in-law, kneel facing forward on our left front. On our far right three sons and Noah’s wife kneel or press their hands to their chests in expression of gratitude or awe. All family members are dressed simply, and other than Noah wear beige draped undergarments topped with blue fabric falling over one shoulder and their back. All are bare-headed, except Noah’s wife, who wears a white head scarf, and they all have light skin and brown hair. The daughter-in-laws have one arm flung backwards and the other bent upward, seemingly expressing wonderment. The son closest to Noah on our right kneels, bows his head, and puts his palms together, as if in prayer. Noah’s wife and other two sons look up intently at the rainbow. In the distance above their heads we see a very small ark on a hill. The background consists of rocky bare ground toward the front, vegetated low hills in the middle, and the sea behind. On the ground at the far right, a long, straight tree trunk rises covered in vines and bears a branch with leaves canopying over the heads of the sons and wife. In addition to the rainbow and angelic heads, a few cloud banks punctuate the sky. This entire scene is set within two Corinthian columns the shafts of which are decorated with a bouquet of fruit and flowers, below an angel’s head and other fainter decorations on the remainder of the columns. Across the top swags of fruit and flowers are looped between the tops of the columns with a dark blue cartouche in the center bearing the Latin inscription, which, when translated, reads, “God shows Noah the rainbow as a covenant.”
The Story of Noah: God Shows Noah a Rainbow,
mid 17th century
Wool warp (6 yarns per cm); wool and silk wefts
279.4 x 452.1 cm (110 x 178 in.)
Isabella Stewart Gardner kept meticulous records of many of her acquisitions. In keeping with this legacy, object information is continually being reviewed, updated, and enriched in order to give greater access to the collection.