History of the Series:
This tapestry almost certainly belongs to a Gobelins set that was executed privately by Dominique De La Croix, who led one of the basse lisse ateliers between 1693 and 1737. M. Fenaille records that tapestries forming part of The Metamorphoses had been privately woven by Gobelins merchants since the founding of the Manufacture in 1662 (Etat Général des Tapisseries de la Manufacture des Gobelins, Paris, 1604, vol. III, p. 121). The designs of these tapestries were based on models that had already been used in the ateliers of the Comans and Raphaël de la Planche. A set from this series containing gold-thread and bearing the inventory mark '92' was bought by the King in 1684 but is today lost.
Those seven initial subjects, to which Acis and Galatea belongs, were later expanded by further fifteen panels that were in part based on paintings paid for between 1704 and 1706. Those subjects appear to have initially only been woven for private commissions and Gobelins only records the first official production of seven of these subjects in 1714 for Louis XIV. The cartoons were at that point, however, already in need of restoration before they could be used for the weaving.
An inventory of the cartoons at the Gobelins manufacture drawn up by its inspecteur André-Charles Chastelain (d. 1755) indicates that the design for Acis and Galatea was based on a painting by Charles de La Fosse (d. 1716). Although Fenaille points out that no painting by that title and that artist existed in any inventories of the paintings belonging to Louis XVI, a painting by de La Fosse that is clearly the basis for this tapestry is today at the Prado (E. Standen, European Post-Medieval Tapestries and Related hangings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985, vol. I, p. 317). The inventory at the Gobelins further reveals that it was Pierre Mathieu (d. 1719) who painted the figures while Robert-François Bonnart prepared the landscape (Fenaille, ibid., p. 123)
Neither Fenaille nor H. Göbel (Die Wandteppiche und ihre Manufakturen in Frankreich, Italien, Spanien und Portugal, Leipzig, 1928, vol. I, p. 171) record any weaving of this subject. However, a tapestry of this subject with identical borders, from the Aurora Trust, was sold at Sotheby's, 1 July 1966, lot 14, while a set of four tapestries including this subject from the property of Mrs. Beryl Leslie Urquhart, was sold in these Rooms 3 July 1959, lot 98. The latter group contained two versions of the same subject, one identical to this one but with an additional bush to the left foreground and the other to a second design. The catalogue entry of 1959 further indicates that one of those panels, when sent for restoration in 1932, bore part of the original lining inscribed 'Monseigneur le Prince de Rohan' together with the signature of the tapissier and the date 1705. Alas the lining was unfortunately mislaid. A further large panel from this series depicting Renaud and Armida was sold anonymously at Christie's Monaco, 12 December 1999, lot 1000.
Taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses, this tapestry depicts Acis and Galatea. Galatea, a Nereid or sea-nymph from Sicily, loved the handsome youth Acis but in turn was passionately loved by the one-eyed Cyclope Polyphemus whom she rejected. Polyphemus sat on an outcrop overlooking the sea and played a love song. Later, wandering among the rocks, he found Galatea in the arms of Acis. They fled but Polyphemus in rage flung a great boulder that crushed Acis. Galatea then changed Acis into the river Acis that flows near Mount Aetna.