Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Richard Leson

Committee Members

Kay Wells


bal des sauvages, tapestry, wild man


The enigmatic fifteenth-century tapestry fragments Bal des Sauvages and Combat des Hommes Sauvages et Chevaliers from the Château Saumur depict curious scenes of Wildfolk and humans. These fragments have received relatively little scholarly analysis. My thesis seeks to discern the subject matter and historical context of the des Sauvages tapestries in order to ascertain a clearer understanding the pieces. I accomplish this first by considering the des Sauvages tapestries’ historiography and examining the veracity of the various scholarly hypotheses put forth regarding the works and their subject matter. Chapter II of this thesis considers the tapestry medium and provides brief but necessary foundational information for my subsequent analysis of the des Sauvages tapestries’ context of creation and display. The third and fourth chapters consider the Wildman motif and its history in art, literature, and society, before and during the fifteenth century. The final chapter is an in-depth analysis of the Bal des Sauvages and Combat des Hommes Sauvages et Chevaliers tapestries, from which various conclusions are drawn. Among the more significant conclusions is that, while a specific narrative referent for the des Sauvages tapestry remains unknown, the Bal des Sauvages certainly depicts a scene of nuptial celebration. I argue that the tapestries’ deeper theme is likely an allegory for fifteenth-century aristocratic marriage and its accompanying morals and anxieties. This research, finally, allows me to make informed speculation about the original circumstances of the des Sauvages tapestries, their creation, ownership, original intent, and interpretation.