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    Sale 7433

    Important Early European Furniture, Sculpture and Tapestries

    8 November 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 180

    A LOUIS XIV GOBELINS MYTHOLOGICAL TAPESTRY

    EARLY 18TH CENTURY, BY JEAN LE FEBVRE, AFTER CHARLES DE LA FOSSE

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    A LOUIS XIV GOBELINS MYTHOLOGICAL TAPESTRY
    EARLY 18TH CENTURY, BY JEAN LE FEBVRE, AFTER CHARLES DE LA FOSSE
    Woven in wools and silks, from the Story of Diana, depicting Diana's return from the Hunt, with Diana, her attendants and Cupid resting in a river landscape, within a ribbon-twist and scrolling foliage border and a blue outer slip, signed 'L.F'
    9 ft. 8 in. x 12 ft. 7 in. (295 cm. x 380 cm.)


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    SERIES
    The first records mentioning the Metamorphoses series are the correspondences between the 5th Earl of Exeter with his steward and upholsterer for Burghley House, Lincolnshire, discussing the purchase of made-to-order tapestries of this design from Jean Jans in 1680 and 1681. The next documentary evidence is in the French Royal inventory of 1684 that lists seven Gobelins tapestries (no. '92') of the Metamorphoses woven with gold-thread. Unfortunately none of the early inventories list the subjects so that only five of the original seven subjects have been identified.

    The original seven subjects were then expanded by a further fifteen panels, known as petite tenture, that were in part based on paintings paid for between 1704 and 1706 by such artists as Jean Baptiste de Fontenay, Louis de Boulogne (d. 1733), Nicolas Bertin (d. 1736), Antoine Coypel (d. 1722) and Charles de la Fosse (d. 1716). The old and new designs were freely combined, but the full series was certainly never woven as a whole. These tapestries appear to have initially only been woven for private patrons and Gobelins only records the first official production of seven of these subjects for Louis XIV in 1714. The cartoons for the series are last mentioned in 1736 as ruined. It can thus be assumed that the series was woven between 1680 and 1736.

    DESIGNER
    Charles de la Fosse painted this subject for the Trianon in 1688, which is today at the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg and the composition was later engraved by Pierre-Etienne Moitte from a painting owned by Count Brühl in 1754. The 1736 inventory of cartoons at Gobelins lists that De la Fosse conceived the overall design of the cartoon and Mr. Chevreuille (probably Robert-François Chevreul (d. 1714)) painted the figures, while Robert-François Bonnard (d. 1729) painted the landscape and Jean-Baptiste Belin de Fontenay, the flowers.

    WEAVER
    Although Jean Jans is believed to have championed this set, other contemporaries of his are known to have woven this series. The signature 'L.F.' on this tapestry would indicate that this tapestry was almost certainly woven by the haute-lisse weavers Jean Le Febvre (d. 1700), or his son Jean Le Febvre fils (d. 1736). Many of the Metamorphoses tapestries were executed in the private ateliers of the Gobelins weavers, but they are also known to have woven them in the official workshops of the Gobelins for private commissions. Both alternatives have precedents and are discussed in legal documents of the time.

    COMPARABLE EXAMPLES
    A panel of identical subject lacking its borders from the collection of the Vicomte de Curel was sold at Galerie Georges Petit, 3 May 1918, lot 61, a further example with the arms of Scott, Baronets of Kew, within acanthus-wrapped frame borders sold at Christie's, London, 25 June 1963, lot 144, and another in reverse by Michel Audran was recorded in the Paris trade. A panel of this subject with acanthus-wrapped frame borders is also in the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland while another is in the Huntington Galleries, West Virginia. A pair of tapestries with identical borders, apparently forming part of a series of The Loves of the Gods and also woven in an unidentified private Gobelins atelier, was sold anonymously at Christie's London, 13 June 2002, lot 97.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Provenance

    Château de C., Drouot, Paris, 14-15 November 1955, lot 345.
    Sir Edward Wills, Sotheby's, London, 5 May 1969, lot 11.


    Pre-Lot Text

    THE PROPERTY OF A LADY OF TITLE


    Literature

    E. Standen, 'Ovid's Metamorphoses: A Gobelins Tapestry Series', Metropolitan Museum Journal, New York, 1988, p.189.
    E. Standen, European Post-Medieval Tapestries and Related Hangings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985, vol.I, p.319.