At Stourwater, Jenkins reencounters the Seven Deadly Sins tapestries, Luxuria [TKO 120/117], and proposes that they be used as the models for the tableaux vivants to be photographed by Sir Magnus. [TKO 127-134/124-130]
We have previously discussed the possibility that the tapestries of Pieter Coecke van Aelst might by a model for the Stourwater tapestries. Here we show van Aelst’s Gluttony, the role enacted by Hugh Moreland. This tapestry is currently in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, which fortunately happened to mount a major exhibition of the work of Pieter Coecke van Aelst in late 2014. As amateurs with a greater than average interest in van Aelst’s accounts of the Seven Deadly Sins, we took a peek.
Alas, a close-up inspection of Lust, Pride, Sloth, and Gluttony increased our doubt that Powell actually had these tapestries in mind when he wrote the tableaux vivants scenes at Stourwater. For starters, the tapestries are huge, each 20 to 30 feet in length. The dining room that would house all seven and still afford a setting for dinner party with intimate conversation is hard to envision. Then, the ravages of time, light and use have rendered these tapestries, Lust particularly, so faded that Nick’s impression of their vivid colors seems fanciful rather than observational. Finally, of course, is the fact that van Aelst’s pictorial imagination of Lust barely corresponds in any particular with the piquant narrative of sin that Nick’s description evokes.
Once again Powell’s seems mischievously to have inserted an imaginary work of art—in this case a whole body of work—into a narrative packed with references to actual works of art. Later on in Dance Powell returns to the tapestries yet again, and perhaps at that time we will attempt another approach to identify the sources of his imagination.