Woven at the Manufacture of the Savonnerie towards the end of the reign of Louis XV, this magnificent folding screen is one of very few recorded examples still to remain in private hands.
The fabulous animal scenes were woven after cartoons by Alexandre-François Desportes (1661-1743) dated circa 1719, the year he was received at the Académie Royale de peinture. A watercolour by Desportes in the Archives of the Manufacture de Sèvres (illustrated here) depicts the scene with two hounds and a deer, as represented on the central panel of the present lot.
The description in the Registre d'Antin listing works by Bertrand-François Dupont, entrepreneur or director of the manufactory between 1714 and 1720 ['ouvrages faits par le sieur Dupont en 1719 et 1720'] refers specifically to the order for the present screen:
-'[...] il y a une terrasse surquoy sont possé deux tigre mangeans du ressun, et un berceau de vigne et un fond ciel audesus dusquel il y a deux peroquets bleux et roge sur fond jaune, entouré d'un fond pourpre ...'
-'[...] représentant une terrasse sur lequel est posé deux lapins, un traïage de peché au naturel desus duquel il y a deux singes sur fond ciel enfermé par des cardons d'artichaux, au dessus il y a des bouquets de plumes blanches et bleu à fond couleur de paille, le tout entouré d'un fond pourpre...'
-'[...] représentant une terrasse au bas, sur lequelle sont deux chiens dressé contre un cerfe qui est derrière un feuillage de chene, au desus est un ciel entouré d'un fond pourpre...'
-'[...] dans le bas il y deux regnards qui sont dressé, un sec de vigne sur un fond ciel entouré d'un fond pourpre...'
-'[...] représentant une terasse surquoy est possé trois cannes des indes et un traïage surquoy est attaché un rosier portant fleurs au naturelles et au desus un gros peroquets jaune et bleu et un autre oiseau qui est le soleil royalle sur un ciel enfermé d'un cardon d'artichaux, au dessus un fond jaune surquoy il y a un bouquet de plumes, ayant une aune cinq huit de hault sur une aune un huit de large...'
THE FOUR SUCCESSIVE WEAVINGS
The first two periods of weaving correspond to the years 1719 to 1722 (twenty four panels executed) and 1734 to 1739 (sixty eight panels). These were followed twenty-five years later by two further weavings: between 1766 and 1769 (probably twenty nine panels) and again 1774 and 1784 (twenty two panels).
Of the 143 panels recorded by Pierre Verlet, only 59 representing less than a total of ten folding screens are identifiable today. Other than those now at Waddesdon Manor, the Royal Palace in Stockholm, the Mobilier National, the Louvre, The J.Paul Getty Museum and the Huntington Library, Verlet records only a further five panels in private hands, almost certainly describing those offered here.
According to Verlet, the variations (to the upper section) between the screen offered here and that at Waddesdon Manor indicate that the present screen would seem to correspond to a later version of the same model, one probably simplified by Pierre-Josse Perrot, the main designer at the Manufacture de la Savonnerie from 1725 to 1750, in one of his designs. The fact that same variations can also be found between the two screens in the Royal Palace in Stockholm, supplied respectively in 1747 and 1771, would further support this argument.
THE EXCLUSIVE USE OF SAVONNERIE PARAVENTS
Works executed at the Manufacture de la Savonnerie were destined almost exclusively for members of the Royal Family and the princes de sang. Folding screens such as the present lot were meant to protect from draughts and were placed in the ante rooms and dining rooms of the private apartments, rather than in the more public parade rooms.
These precious screens were also occasionally bestowed as diplomatic gifts to high ranking officials. In 1747, 1771 and 1784, examples of this model were presented as gifts to the Swedish Court, while in 1784 a further twelve panels were offered by Louis XVI to the Comte and Comtesse du Nord, under which name Paul, son of Catherine the Great and future Paul I of Russian (1754-1801), and his spouse Maria Feodorovna travelled during the journey they made to France, Holland, Switzerland and Germany from 1782.
Outside the Royal family and the diplomatic corps, very few examples were acquired privately. These include the six panels of this model supplied in 1750 to Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764) for the château de Bellevue, and the five panels of the same model delivered to the maître des Requêtes Baudouin de Guémadeuc in 1770 (see S.M. Bennett and C. Sargentson, op.cit., p.300).
ALEXANDRE-FRANÇOIS DESPORTES (1661-1743)
Desportes trained with the Flemish artist, Nicasius Bernaerts (1620-1678), himself a former pupil of Frans Synders, who instilled in the young artist a fascination with still life subjects and realism. Desportes is recorded to have collaborated with Audran for the decoration of the château d'Anet (1696), near Dreux, originally built c.1547-52 by Henri II for his mistress Diane de Poitiers.
He was later summoned to the Polish court of King John III Sobieski and Queen Marie-Casimire Louise before returning to France upon the request of Louis XIV. In 1700 he received the first of many royal commissions which spanned over four decades until his death, and comprised projects for the decoration of the Ménagerie at Versailles, for the châteaux de Marly, Meudon, La Muette and the château de Chantilly.
From his logement in the Galeries of the Louvre, Desportes supplied numerous designs to the Manufacture des Gobelins (Tenture des Nouvelles Indes circa 1740) as well as to the Manufacture de la Savonnerie.
Upon his death in 1743, many of these works were inherited by his son, Claude-François (1695-1774) and later, in 1774, his nephew. Ten years later, many of these studies were acquired by Charles Claude Flahaut de La Billarderie, comte d'Angiviller (1730-c1810) for the use by the Sèvres porcelain manufacturers.