This tapestry almost certainly belongs to a Gobelins set that was executed privately by one of the Gobelins weavers. The first records mentioning the 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. They appear to include Diana and Acteon, a copy of which is in the Burghley set, and Apollo and Daphne, the name of which is mentioned in the Royal inventory of 1684.
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. 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. That set was only finished in 1720, which suggests that it probably commissioned to give employment to weavers at the time. By 1714, when that series was ordered, the cartoons already had to be restored before they could be used for the weaving. 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.
Although Jean Jans is believed to have championed this set and possibly to have commissioned drawings for the series at his own cost, it is impossible to attribute the weaving of the offered lots to him. Various examples of the series bear signatures of other of his contemporaries, who possibly also wove these tapestries in their private workshops, but possibly also in the official workshops of the Gobelins for private commissions. Both alternatives have precedents and are discussed in legal documents at the time.
There are three paintings recorded that are related to the design of this tapestry. One, sold as Ecole de Coypel in Fontainebleau on 26 April 1987 shows almost exactly this composition, while a painting by Gabriel Blanchard that was made for the Grand Appartement of Versailles before 1701 and that is still in place, shows the figure in the foreground and Somnius holding Endymion with Diana behind him. A third composition by René Antoine Houasse, made for the Trianon in 1688 and now in the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Narbonne, shows Diana and Endymion in similar poses.
Endymion, the beautiful youth, was granted perpetual youth in return for eternal sleep by Jupiter. Diana visited him nightly.
One example from this series, signed by Jans, was exhibited along with five others from the same series at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts belonging to the Brandegee Foundation in 1919 (S.G. Flint, 'The Metamorphoses. A Set of Gobelins Tapestries', Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin, 1919, p. 5). Another example was sold anonymously, Sotheby's, London, 29 November 1980, lot 451, while another, from the collection of M. X, was sold Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 16 December 1932, no. J. Another tapestry of the same subject was sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 15 November 2001, lot 271.
(E. Standen, 'Ovid's Metamorphoses: A Gobelins Tapestry Series', Metropolitan Museum Journal, 1988, pp. 149 - 191)