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The European Tapestry Collection

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s European tapestry collection is one of the most important and diverse in the United States. Both the Museums’ de Young Museum and Legion of Honor have collected tapestries since their founding. While the de Young’s tapestries were judiciously selected and purchased, usually with donated funds, the Legion of Honor’s varied tapestry holdings were largely formed by gifts from private individuals who had purchased the textiles for their residencies. After the de Young and Legion of Honor merged to form the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 1972, tapestries continued to be acquired by the Museums through purchase, gift, and bequest. Under the volunteer stewardship of husband-and-wife Ralph Bennett (1900–1994) and Anna Gray Bennett (1917–2012) in the 1970s, the Museums’ tapestries were cleaned, conserved, and researched. In 1976, Anna Gray Bennett brought international attention to the tapestry collection with the landmark exhibition and catalogue, Five Centuries of Tapestry from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. For her devotion to the collection, its research, and care, Bennett was named founding curator of the Textile Arts Department in 1983. Today, highlights of the European tapestry collection include rare Gothic tapestries, works by the esteemed French manufactories of Aubusson, Gobelins, and Beauvais, and the largest concentration of panels from the famous The Redemption of Man series outside of Europe.

 

Image: The Combat of the Virtues and the Vices, from The Redemption of Man series, 1510–1515, Belgium, Brussels. Wool, silk, tapestry weave, 164 x 314 in. (416.6 x 797.6 cm). Gift of The William Randolph Hearst Foundation, 54.14.4