AN EARLY LOUIS XV GOBELINS CHANCELLERIE TAPESTRY
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AN EARLY LOUIS XV GOBELINS CHANCELLERIE TAPESTRY

CIRCA 1730, BY DOMINIQUE DE LA CROIX OR JEAN DE LA FRAYE, AFTER A DESIGN BY GUY-LOUIS VERNANSAL, PAVILLON AND CLAUDE III AUDRAN

Details
AN EARLY LOUIS XV GOBELINS CHANCELLERIE TAPESTRY
CIRCA 1730, BY DOMINIQUE DE LA CROIX OR JEAN DE LA FRAYE, AFTER A DESIGN BY GUY-LOUIS VERNANSAL, PAVILLON AND CLAUDE III AUDRAN
Woven in wools and silks, centred by the Royal Arms of France and Navarre and the collars of the Orders of Saint-Michel and Saint-Esprit above the casket with the Royal seals, beneath a lambrequined canopy suspending an ermine cloak, supported by winged youths, above the all-seeing eye of Justice and flanked by female figures emblematic of Justice and Prudence, on a fleur-de-lys ground, the corners with the Arms of Chauvelin des Grosbois et de Beauregard, the lower border centred by a cartouche bearing interlaced 'Cs', each border with pairs of putti emblematic of Justice and Mercy, Reward and Punishment, interspersed with crossed sceptres, shells and acanthus foliage, the lower and upper borders with a rose-trellis ground, minor restorations
11 ft. 7 in. x 14 ft. 3 in. (352 x 434 cm.)
Provenance
Presented by Louis XV to Germain Louis Chauvelin, marquis de Grosbois (1685-1762), Garde des Sceaux de France from 1727-36.
Collection Bensimon, Paris; sold hôtel Drouot (Mes Couturier & Nicolay), Paris, 18-19 November 1981, lot 164.
His Excellency Ilhamy Hussein Pacha; sold Ader Tajan, Monaco, 14 March 1993, lot 204.
Literature
M. Fenaille, Etat Général des Tapisseries de la Manufacture des Gobelins, Paris, 1904, vol. III, p. 139.
H. Göbel, Die Wandteppiche in ihre Manufakturen in Frankreich, Italien, Spanien und Portugal, Leipzig, 1928, vol. I, p. 173.
E. Standen, European Post-Medieval Tapestries and Related Hangings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985, vol. I, p. 362.
C. Bremer-David, French Tapestries & Textiles in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 1997, pp. 32-33.
D. Langeois, et al., Quelques Chefs d'Oeuvres de la Collection Djahanguir Riahi, Milan, 1999, pp. 76-77.
Special notice

VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

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Lot Essay

This exceptional and vividly-coloured Chancellerie tapesty, with Royal coat-of-arms prominent to the centre to enhance the exalted status of its owner and show his allegiance to the Crown, is one of the most beautiful examples of this celebrated type, and is in an extraordinary state of preservation.

GERMAIN-LOUIS CHAUVELIN
Germain-Louis Chauvelin (1685-1762), from a family of lawyers and the son of Louis III Chauvelin, intendant in the Franche-Comté and in Picardie, had a rapid ascent in his legal career and became conseilleur to the Grand Conseil as well as grand rapporteur et correcteur des lettres de chancellerie in 1706. In 1711 he became maître des requêtes and in 1718 he rose to the top of the judicial hierarchy by buying a post as président à mortier. In the same year he married the wealthy heiress Anne Cahouet de Beauvais. He rose as a close ally of Cardinal de Fleury and when the latter became prime minister in 1726, he appointed Chauvelin Garde des Sceaux on 17 August 1727. However, he had to share his position with Henri-François d'Aguesseau, who retained the post of Chancelier, but Chauvelin was able to remain in charge of the affairs of the Librairie as well as the presidency of the Seal which afforded him access to enormous incomes. He purchased the château de Grosbois in 1731 and became seigneur engagiste of the château de Brie-Comte-Robert. Chauvelin was hostile to Austria and took a position against Fleury's policy in the Polish succession discussions and thus fell from favour after the Treaty of Vienna in 1736. He was exiled from Paris and stripped of all of his political positions. He was only able to return to Paris in 1746, where he remained out of political life until his death in 1762.

ORIGINS OF THE SERIES
The first chancellor to receive a series of tapestries of this type as a gift from the King was Michel Le Tellier. Although two examples of this first set of ten tapestries survive, the designer remains unknown. One version is at the Musée Nissim de Camondo in Paris (N. Gasc and G. Mabille, The Nissim de Camondo Museum, Paris, 1997, p. 94) and only preserves the original central section while the borders were altered and now bear the arms of chancellor d'Argenson (d. 1721), while the other with original borders was sold in Paris, 25 May 1892, lot 8. The second set of chancellery tapestries given to Louis Boucherat (d. 1699) in 1686 was exceptionally executed in the Royal Beauvais Workshops under Philip Béhagle (d. 1705) and was designed by François Bonnemer (d. 1689) while the borders were executed by Jean Le Moyne (d. 1713) (F. Joubert, A. Lefébure and P.F. Bertrand, Histoire de la Tapisserie, Paris, 1995, p. 169). Two examples remain in the Mobilier National in Paris; another, from the property of François Guérault, was sold in Paris, 21-22 March 1935, lot 39; and probably another anonymously, Christie's, New York, 21 April 1979, lot 187.

THE NEW DESIGN
The general design of the subsequent weavings remained similar, but while the coffer for the seals had in the earlier versions been situated along the lower edge of the tapestries, it was now placed more centrally on a pedestal decorated with the eye of Justice. The renewed design, to which the Riahi tapestry belongs, was created by Guy-Louis Vernansal (d. 1729), who drew the figures, Pavillon (active until 1712), who drew the coats-of-arms, and Claude III Audran (d. 1734), who appears to have created the rest, in 1700 and 1701. The first weaving to these designs was executed for Louis Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain (d.1727) who was chancellor between 1699 and 1714. A document of 1701 lists a payment of 3,200 livres to Le Febvre for his work on the set of nine tapestries executed on the low looms during 2 January and 28 August. One panel from this set was at Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire and the only other panel of the nine from this set known to survive was in the collection of The Earl of Iveagh, Elveden Hall, who bought it in Paris in 1902 (sold Christie's house sale, 22 May 1984, lot 1777).

The following sets were woven for Chancelier Voysin in 1714, Chancelier d'Aguesseau in 1718-19, Chancelier d'Argesson in 1719-21, Chancelier d'Armenonville in 1722-24, and subsequently five large panels, two portières, two trumeaux and a single piece to Garde des Sceaux Chauvelin between 1729 and 1730. They were supplied to Chauvelin on 5 January 1730 and cost a total of 18,072 livres.

Of those ten panels, one portière is at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, another portière at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, a wide version is in a private collection in France and another is in the château de Menthon. Two other panels, one wider than the offered lot and the other an unrecorded third portière, were reported stolen from Georges Wildenstein during the Second World War (C. Bremer-David, French Tapestries & Textiles in the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 1997, pp. 28-33).

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