Lithuania in the News
26th April 2009
Precious 16th Century Gobelin Tapestry Returns to Lithuania

The 16th century gobelin tapestry with the
Grand Ducal coat of arms.
Photo courtesy Lietuvos Rytas
A 16th century portrait of Grand
Duke Žygimantas Augustas.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia
Žygimantas Augustas’ beloved
Queen, Barbora Radvilaitė
Photo courtesy Wikipedia
A very valuable rare gobelin tapestry, originally woven in Flanders in the 16th century for Lithuania’s Grand Duke Žygimantas Augustas, has returned to Lithuania. It was purchased in an auction in Paris for € 32,000 (near $A 60,000) from a French collector and after some restoration is destined for the Grand Ducal Place in Vilnius, the reconstruction of which is nearing completion. Its housing in the reconstructed Grand Ducal Palace is quite fitting, as it originally graced one of the halls in the original palace and would have been admired by Žygimantas Augustas and his beloved Queen, Barbora Radvilaitė.
16th century gobelins are highly valued, both in Europe and around the world. This particular gobelin is also of exceptional historical significance, as it is very intimately associated with Lithuania’s history. In the centre of the two and a half metre high gobelin there is the heraldic coat of arms of the Grand Duke of Lithuania when Lithuania was still a great power in North Eastern Europe. Below the Grand Ducal Crown there are the coats of arms of all the lands ruled by the Grand Duke – of Lithuania (the “Vytis” top right), of Poland (top left) and of all the other lands.
Žygimantas Augustas ruled Lithuania 1544 – 1572 and was the last of the Jogaila dynasty of Lithuania (the Jagiellons). Lithuania’s Grand Duke Jogaila had been invited by Poland to take up the Polish crown in 1386 and under his successors there was an informal union between Lithuania and Poland. Under Žygimantas Augustas the union was formalised by the Treaty of Lublin in 1569, when the Commonwealth of the Two Nations was established.
The gobelin must have been commissioned by Žygimantas Augustas before the death of his beloved Barbora Radvilaitė. After her death in 1551 he went into life-long mourning and thereafter ordered that only black and white gobelins be woven for him. The gobelin will complement another recent valued acquisition for the Grand Ducal Palace – the Sapiega chalice (Please see on this website: News archive/ Lithuania in the News/ 22/06/2008 - Antique Lithuanian Chalice).

Further information: 20/04/09