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Armida on a dragon

Armida on a dragon
black and red chalk
12 x 14 1⁄2 in. (30.3 x 36.8 cm)
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, New York, 9 January 1996, lot 185.

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Lot Essay

This work is a preparatory study for a tapestry representing the Destruction of the Palace of Armida after a design by Charles-Antoine Coypel from 1737, for which the cartoon is preserved in the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy (inv. 532; see T. Lefrançois, Charles Coypel, peintre du Roi (1694-1752), Paris, 1994, no. P.187, ill.). A smaller modello was sold at Christie’s, London, 8 December 2015, lot 36 (ibid., no. P.186, ill.). The tapestry was woven at the Manufacture des Gobelins as decoration of the apartments of Queen Marie Leszczynska at Versailles.

The tapestry was part of a set illustrating two episodes from operas by Jean-Baptiste Lully and Philippe Quinault, inspired by Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata. The sorceress Armida, daughter to the king of Damas, is sent to kill the Christian knight Rinaldo, with whom she ends up falling in love. Armida bewitches Rinaldo and locks him in a garden, but eventually realizes that he only loved her under duress. In a fit of rage and chagrin, Armida, riding a dragon, destroys the palace that she had created for her and her lover. A wiven version of the composition, produced by Mathieu Monmerqué between 1738 and 1740 at the Gobelins, is today in the collection of the Rijksmuseum (inv. BK-1955-102-B; see J. Vittet, Les Gobelins au Siècle des Lumières. Un Âge d’or de la manufacture royale, exhib. cat., Paris, Galerie des Gobelins, 2014, no. 90, ill.). Another drawing for the same tapestry is in a private collection (L.-A. Prat, Le Dessin français au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, 2017, p. 193, fig. 323).

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