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Attributed to Giulio Romano (Rome c. 1499-Mantua 1546)

Boys among apple trees mid-seventeenth century

RCIN 28160

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The subject of winged putti or boys playing in apple trees or vines trained on pergolas appeared frequently in tapestries between c.1540 and 1670. This is one of a four-part series of The Playing Boys woven in England at the Mortlake tapestry works in the mid-seventeenth century. English patrons may have found the image of fruitfulness and harmony that these tapestries presented particularly appealing after the turmoil of the Civil War. Raphael was the first artist to popularise this type of tapestry design during the Renaissance, but the inspiration for this particular set may derive from designs produced by Giulio Romano in Mantua c.1540 – 5. The theme itself was classical in origin, and derived from the Eikones of Philostratus, which described a group of Neapolitan paintings of the third century ad, including one showing cupids playing in a fruit garden. The motif also appeared in contemporary Renaissance literature, such as Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.