This extremely rare tapestry belongs to one of the first commissions executed by the Beauvais tapestry manufactory in the third quarter 17th century. Very little is known of the subjects woven and number of tapestries that were produced by the workshop until the 1724, when records were systematically kept. The series to which this tapestry belongs was only relatively recently identified as a Beauvais suite by B. Jestaz ('The Beauvais Maufactory in 1690', Acts of the Tapestry Symposium, San Francisco, 1979, pp. 190 - 195). The attribution to
France to the canopied motif to the lower border. A royal inventory of 1673 specifies that a Beauvais Les Jeux d'Enfants tapestry series has an identically inscribed border, therefore ensuring that this tapestry originates from the same workshop as the inscription is so idiosyncratic. There are two small groups of tapestries of this subject, each containing five panels, that survive, one in the Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle and the other in the Troyes Museum. The Troyes Museum set has a differing, slightly later and possibly more typical Beauvais border, while the suite in the Bowes Museum has identical borders to the offered lot. Both the Bowes and Troyes set lack the Psyche returning from Hell with the Water of Youth subject. By combining the two sets and adding this subject eight panels are discernable.
However, two subjects which are central to the story and which are traditional to tapestry series of this subject at the period are not illustrated, suggesting that there were at least ten panels to the set.
It is interesting to note that Göbel, when mentioning and illustrating the offered lot in his oeuvre, indicated that there were three other tapestries accompanying this panel. Unfortunately he omitted to identify their subjects, but it may be possible that they all belonged to the same set as that at the Bowes Museum.
The patron of this commission must have been of considerable stature to be able to order the set woven with gold and silver thread, a highly unusual practice for Beauvais. The workshop was only established in 1664 under the protectorate of Colbert, when Louis Hinart received a concession of thirty years and an advance capital of 60,000 livres, on the condition that he hire 100 weavers immediately and added 100 more each year for six years. However, when Colbert died in 1684, Hinart had to retire and Philippe Behagle was hired to take over as director. Behagle immediately met with financial difficulties and had to deliver a number of tapestries to his creditors in 1690. The list compiled at the time numbered the sets individually and listed as set 188 a suite of six tapestries depicting The Story of Psyche. This indicates that this series was woven at least until the late 1680s (the highest number series at that time was 207). However, the set listed in the group belonged to one of the cheaper suites, it could therefore for certain not have included this panel as it is adorned with expensive gold and silver. Furthermore, it would seem unlikely that this border, which is much more in the style of the 1660s and 1670s would have been used at such a late date. It is therefore most probable that the offered lot was woven under Louis Hinart while under the protectorate of Colbert. Intriguingly Colbert's inventory taken in 1683 lists a suite of Psyche tapestries, however it is identified as Brussels. No Brussels series of this subject of the period up to Colbert survives, however, it is known to have existed as the 17th century Paris workshops copied such a set. May it, however, be possible that the series was erroneously attributed to Brussels in 1683, possibly because of the use of metal-thread which was more common in Brussels? A tapestry from this series depicting Homage rendered by the Crowd to Psyche's Beauty was sold at Sotheby's, London, 30 October 1964, lot 95, and again at Christie's London , 29 June 1967, lot 150.