THE TAPESTRIES FROM THE MOIS DE LUCAS
ORIGINS OF THE SERIES
The following magnificent pair of tapestries are two panels from The Seasons of Lucas. The series was probably originally designed by a Flemish artist of the school of Bernaert van Orley in about 1535 although the name, which was erroneously given in the early 17th century, refers to Lucas van Leyden. The series was subsequently woven in Brussels and Bruges, while the Royal Gobelins versions appear to be based on a set of twelve Brussels versions that belonged to Louis XIV, woven circa 1535 and destroyed in 1797 to recouperate the silver and gold-thread in them. The series was first copied in Paris in the mid-17th century and then further altered and 'updated' for the weavings at Gobelins.
The first Gobelins version was probably woven for Colbert and lists the set in the inventory taken after his death in 1683, while the first weaving for King Louis XIV took place in 1688. Most of the 12 Gobelins sets recorded by Fenaille (Etat général des Tapisseries de la Manufacture des Gobelins, Paris, 1903, pp. 337 - 370), remained in the Royal collections while there are some unrecorded private weavings.
HISTORY OF THIS WEAVING
These two tapestries are from the eleventh weaving of the Mois de Lucas and were woven in the second high warp Loom workshop by Pierre-François Cozette. They were part of the last official weaving of four pieces carried out between 1767 and 1772. Two other versions of November, each close to one another, were woven in the same workshop. The border decoration is a variant of that created by Belin de Fontenay and Pierre Josse Perrot in 1730 and was first used in 1737 for a series woven for Count Brühl.
There is some confusion as to the last weavings executed by Cozette and partially by his predecessor Monmerque. While Fenaille appears to have known about the weaving of a tapestry between 1767 and 1770 by Cozette, he had no official records. However, the sale of a tapestry depicting November at Christie's New York, 2 November 2000, lot 55, that was signed and dated 'Cozette 1770' seemed to suggest that that was the tapestry Fenaille was referring to. The offered two tapestries dated 1768 had not been noted at the time of the 2000 sale.
It had previously been suggested that the set given to the cardinal des Lances was a reworked set that had been woven by Cozette and Monmerque between 1747 and 1750. That set was given to duc de Praslin while acting as the ministère plénipotentiaire of Louis XV at the Congress in Augsburg. These tapestries were returned to be exchanged with others in 1763 and the Mois de Lucas tapestries were hung in the hôtel of the Ambassade de France in 1765. They were then apparently returned to France in 1771 and may have been re-worked to be presented to other dignitaries.
However, the present two panels must have been new weavings executed in 1768 that were given by King Louis XV to cardinal Charles des Lânces, on the occasion of the marriage of the comte de Provence, future Louis XVIII, with princess Marie-Joséphine-Louis de Savoie. This re-weaving was not detailed by Fenaille but appears in the Livres des Présents du Roi, as no. 2098:
Le 22 mars année 1771
État des présens distribuées au nom du Roy, à Turin, pour le compte des Affaires étrangères, à l'occasion de la demande solennelle de Madame la Comtesse de Provence par M. le Baron de Choiseul, ambassadeur de Sa Majesté auprés du Roy de Sardaigne.
- Au cardinal des Lances
une tenture de tapisserie en haute lisse en quatre pièces faite à la Manufacture Royale des Gobelins pour le compte des Affaires étrangères, en 1768, représentant les quatre Mois de l'année, d'après Paul Lucas.
Le Mois de Juin a été fait sur la largeur de 4 a. 12/16 et a en pieds actuellement de large, compris les tissus et la rentrée 9 pieds 1 pouce.
Le Mois de Novembre a été fait sur la largeur de 2 a. et en pieds cette pièce a actuellement de large, compris les tissus et la rentrée 10 pieds 2 pouces.
The two panels correspond fairly closely in measurment to the offered lots. The mention of the date 1768 in the contemporary records would indicate the offered two lots to be those of the cardinal des Lances.
A SECOND POSSIBLE PROVENANCE
However, there is an intriguing second possiblity. There is another set that was ordered from Cozette that is not listed in the Gobelins accounts either but is listed in the 1773 inventory of the Foreign Ministry warehouse:
Art. 7 no. 5 - Tapisserie des Gobelins, Six mois de l'année, savoir:
Janvier [ ]
Février [ ]
Mai [ ]
Juin [ ]
Novembre 3 aunes 10 de hauteur sur 2 aunes 10 cours
3 452 livres 12 sols 6 deniers
(431 cm. high; 312 cm. wide)
Décembre [ ]
Total: 25 936 livres 17 sols 6 deniers
Avec une petite parties de la pièce de Mars découpée
November appears in the Livres des Présents du Roi because it was given, alongside June, by Louis XV to the Archbishop of Turin who had succeeded cardinal de Lances as grand aumônier to the King of Sardinia on the occasion of the marriage of the comte d'Artois, his third grandson, to Marie-Thérèse de Savoie in October 1773.
Du 12 octobre 1773:
Délivré par ordre de Mgr le duc d'Aiguillon : Deux pièces de tapisseries des six ci-contre : le Mois de Juin de 3 a1/16 et le Mois de Novembre de 2 a 10/16 pour être envoiées au Pont de Beauvoisin et remises en présent au nom du Roi au Grand Aumônier du roi de Sardaigne à l'occasion du mariage de Mgr le comte d'Artois, lesd. deux pièces revenant à la somme de
7 667 livres 17 sols 6 deniers.
The two tapestries depicting November are almost indistinguishable, with the exception of the 1768 version being slightly wider, from one another, and only the inscriptions on the two known versions ('COZETTE 1768' and 'COZETTE 1770') allows one to surmise that the tapestry dated 1770 was probably that given to the archbishop of Turin, while that dated 1768 was given to the cardinal des Lânces. The two other tapestries that are known from the second set, May and December, which are now in the Foreign Ministry and are dated 1770 also (Standen, op. cit., pp. 333).
In either case, the tapestries formed part of a gift by Louis XV to a clerical dignitary on the occasion of a Royal wedding.
Related tapestries from this series are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in the Hermitage Museum, Russia (illustrated in N. Birioukova, Les Tapisseries Françaises de la Fin du XVe au XXe Siècle dans les Collections de l'Ermitage, Leningrad, 1974, Leningrad, cat.27) and were sold by the 6th Earl of Rosebery from Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire, Sotheby's House sale, 18-20 May 1977, lots 802-813.
GOBELINS, SIGNED AND DATED 'COZETTE 1768' TWICE, AFTER BERNAERT VAN ORLEY
A LOUIS XV ALLEGORICAL TAPESTRY
GOBELINS, SIGNED AND DATED 'COZETTE 1768' TWICE, AFTER BERNAERT VAN ORLEY
Woven in silks and wools, depicting June from The Months of Lucas, with numerous ladies shearing sheep and washing the wool in a pond, set in an open landscape and within wide simulated frame borders with floral bouquets and the French Royal three fleurs-de-lys in a winged cartouche to the top and with the Cancer Zodiac sign to the cartouche at the bottom, each side with Apollo's mask and the angles with interlaced 'L's, within blue outer guard borders, replaced to the top, signed to the lower right of the bottom guard border and in the brown areas of the lower right of the main field
13 ft. 6 in. (412 cm.) high, 8 ft. 8 in. (264 cm.) high
Probably a gift by Louis XV to Cardinal Charles de Lânces, archbishop of Turin and Grand Aumônier of the King of Sardinia on the occasion of the wedding of the comte de Provence (future King Louis XVIII) to Marie-Joséphine-Louise of Savoy, in 1771.
Or possibly a gift by Louis XV to the Grand Aumônier of the King of Sardinia on the occasion of the wedding of the comte d'Artois to Marie-Thérèse of Savoy, in 1773.
M.A. Roussel, sold Sotheby's, Monaco, 22 June 1986, lot 499.
with Bernard Blondeel, Antwerp and Paris.