COUSIN, Jean the Elder
(b. ca. 1495, Soucy, d. ca. 1560, Paris)

St Mammes and Duke Alexander

Tapestry, 440 x 450 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

According to legend, St Mammés was martyred under Emperor Aurelian in Cappadocia in around 275. He was highly revered in Asia Minor in early Christian times and described as a "great martyr". In the 8th century his relics were taken to Langres in France and he became patron saint of Langres cathedral.

In around 1540 eight tapestries depicting scenes from his life were woven for the chancel. Three still survive, two in Langres and one in the Louvre. After the saint had addressed the wild animals (the subject of one of the two tapestries in Langres), he went on, accompanied by a lion, to visit Duke Alexander (according to the inscription woven into the bottom of the present tapestry; strictly speaking, however, it should be Aurelian), who condemned him to death. The saint's execution can be seen in the temple-like building in the middle ground.

The expansive landscape, the confident handling of perspective and the classicizing architecture all point to Italian influences, which may have come from the School of Fontainebleau. This is also suggested by the decorative embellishment of the buildings and the rich ornamentation of the frame. Its astonishing wealth of nuances of colour lead the tapestry to resemble a painting on canvas.