Object type



The Bible Tapestry

Place Associated

Germany, Middle Rhine (place of manufacture)


circa 1550


linen (warps), wool (wefts), linen (wefts), silk (wefts), metal (wefts), 7 warp threads per cm, 2 ply S


overall: 1590 mm x 2760 mm 6350 g


Tapestry woven with wool, linen, silk and metal wefts and linen warps depicting thirty-four scenes from the Bible. At top left the Creation of the World and Eve, Temptation and Expulsion from the Garden continuing chronologically in rows, including the Tower of Babel, Lot and his Daughters, Sacrifice of Isaac, Job, Moses Striking the Rock, Joseph and his Brothers, David and Goliath, David and Bathsheba, Jonah and the Whale, Susanna and the Elders, Judith and Holofernes and Daniel in the Lion’s Den, until the Betrothal of the Virgin and the Nativity of Christ at the bottom left.

The stories are each individually labelled with a scroll and were probably based upon contemporary illustrated and printed books with the tapestry used as a teaching aid by priests.

Lorraine Karafel states that: 'The tapestry’s designer is not known. However, fifteenth century illustrated books may have provided models either directly or through secondary sources. Many of the weaving’s figures and scenes, including the Creation of Eve; The Temptation; Jonah and the Whale; and the Spies and the Grapes, appeared in the Biblia Pauperum, or ‘Pauper’s Bible’, first published in the Netherlands in 1460–70. This visual presentation of the Bible used images rather than text to teach the significant stories in the Old and New Testament to a largely illiterate audience. Illustrations in another printed book, Hartman Schedel’s Nuremberg Chronicle, published in Nuremberg in 1493, may also have influenced the tapestry’s depictions, including the scenes of Noah’s Ark; the Drunkenness of Noah; Augustus and the Sibyl; the Betrothal of the Virgin; and the Nativity, among others. The designer of the Burrell tapestry may have studied the imagery in these books directly for his models or, alternatively, may have used prints that borrowed from them.' (Cleland, E. and Karafel, L., (2017). Glasgow Museums: Tapestries from The Burrell Collection, 130).

Provenance: Sir F S Powell, Horton Old Hall, Bradford; Catalogue of an extensive collection of old English furniture from the XVI to the XIX Century, also a very rare and important Gothic tapestry, the property of the late F.S. Powell, Bt., Sotheby’s, London, 29 November 1929, lot 167 (illus.); from where purchased through Acton Surgey, by Sir William Burrell, for £3,200.

Credit Line/Donor

Gifted by Sir William and Lady Burrell to the City of Glasgow, 1944


Burrell Collection: European Tapestries

ID Number



Burrell Collection

Related People

Acton Surgey Ltd

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