The Valois Tapestries series is one of the most precious and celebrated tapestry series in the Uffizi Gallery’s collection and depicts major figures in Catherine de’ Medici’s French court against scenes of fetes, jousts and mock battles of the magnificent entertainments hosted by Catherine from 1564 to 1573. The series is composed of eight precious tapestries, woven with wool, silk, gold and silver thread, datable around 1575 from an unidentified Brussels’ manufacturer, after designs by Antoine Caron (Beauvais 1521 ca. – Paris 1599) from cartons by Lucas de Heere (Gent. 1534 – 1584). Most notable in all of the tapestries are the particularly rich margins decorated with grotesques, flowers, fruit and putti.
Catherine de’ Medici, Queen of France, probably commissioned the tapestries for political reasons to honor the family of her husband King Henry II, and her granddaughter Christina of Lorraine brought them to Florence in 1589 as dowry to his betrothed Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici. The tapestries value recorded in the Medici inventory of that year amounts to 3,520 scudi, about one million US dollars today.
After hanging almost uninterruptedly for nearly one hundred years – initially in the Crocetta Palace, ancient seat of the Tapestry Museum, and since 1966 along the first corridor of the Uffizi Gallery – the eight tapestries were removed in 1987 owing to the evident serious damages increased by the continuous exposition to daylight, and have since been stored, carefully rolled up and protected, in museum vaults suitably equipped for their preservation. The tapestry depicting The Bayonne Tournament was restored over the years 1998 – 2003 thanks to State funds and substantial contributions from Amici degli Uffizi.
The remaining tapestries are all in need of conservative restoration for the many different serious deterioration problems ranging from tears, fraying and wear of the weft, to the oxidation of the metallic yarn.
The restored tapestries would be finally brought back to the public admiration at the Uffizi Gallery after over twenty years’ absence, in the new rooms with environmental conditions (light, humidity, temperature) suitable to their proper conservation.