Chabanex Tapestry

This English allegorical tapestry dates to the early 18th century. It represents a scene of Summer and is part of a series of four works which depict the four seasons. Two of the companion tapestries, Spring and Autumn, are currently in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The location of Winter is unknown. This example is notable as it retains the entirety of its decorative border, missing from the other examples in the set.

The tapestry bears the signature of John Chabanex (Chabaneix, Chabanel), a French Huguenot refugee who is known to have established a weaving workshop in England sometime after 1696. This means the Tapestry had to be completed sometime between the beginning of the 18th century an Chabanex’s death in 1744.

For many years the tapestry was a prized heirloom of the Grafton family of Dundas. Tradition states that it once belonged to the Duke of Wellington, the British military commander (and later prime minister) who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. The Duke gifted the tapestry to Dr. John Sydney-Smith, a surgeon at the battle of Waterloo, as a token of his appreciation for services rendered during the fighting. Dr. Sydney-Smith and his family eventually emigrated to York (Toronto), where the doctor died of cholera shortly after ministering an outbreak of the disease in 1832. Charlotte, one of the doctor’s two daughters, married James Beatty Grafton of Dundas. Charlotte brought the Tapestry to Dundas, and later willed it to her descendants. The Graftons owned a major clothing business in town and hung the tapestry in their family home, known as ‘the Maples’ at the corner of Cross and Park Streets. It passed into the hands of Col. J.J. Grafton and, later, his daughter Catherine, who presented it to the Museum when it was constructed in 1956.

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