These magnificent hangings, inspired by Raphael's early 16th Century decoration of the Vatican Loggia, were woven by the Lyon silk weavers Maison Pernon. Maison Pernon carried out numerous Royal commissions for the Spanish court throughout the 1780s and 1790s, but Camille Pernon (1753-1808) went to Madrid himself to secure further commissions in the Spring of 1798. It was this visit that sparked off the series of sumptuous silk hangings woven to designs by Jean-Demosthène Dugourc, both for the Casita del Principe de L'Escorial and the Casita del Labrador d'Aranjuez. Charles IV himself took a particular interest in the furnishing of the Casita del Labrador, built between 1792 and 1803, for which several silk furnishings were commissioned, and this may well explain their lavish design and execution.
These examples correspond to Dugourc's gouache design for the salle de Billard ('Verdures du Vatican') at the Casita del Labrador, circa 1799, illustrated in Soieries de Lyon, Commandes Royales au XVIIe Siècle (1730-1800), Musée Historique des Tissus, Lyon, December 1988 - March 1989, cat.106, page 136. See also cats. 84 and 85 for panels of a related design from the Dining Room and Salle de Billard. Whilst the satin was brocaded in Lyon, the embroidered vignettes are probably Spanish and would have been added on arrival at Aranjuez. The examples cited above suggest that when hung, the panels would probably have alternated with lengths lacking the embroidered vignette. There are minor differences between Dugourc's initial scheme and the panels as woven.
Dugourc's inspiration may well have come from Giovanni Ottaviani's 1772-1776 publication of the Loggie di Rafaele nel Vaticano, Rome, with illustrations by Pietro Camporesi and Gaetano Sacorelli.
These two panels were designed as flanking panels for the central arabesque panel worked with flowers and plants. While another version of the central strip is in the Collection Tassinari-Chatel, the only other versions of the side panels are the originals at Aranjuez, which are not in a good state of repair, and another, sold alongside a central panel from the Maison Barroux collection at Antoine Ader, Paris, 13 January 1995, lot 179 (£ 73,140).
Apart from the hangings still in the Casita, the Tassinari and Châtel panel carries a label cabinet de Parade Palais du Pardo, suggesting that it may never have actually been installed in the Casita del Labrador. Certainly further small bas reliefs from the series, inspired by frescoes at Herculaneum, also remain in the Royal Palace in Madrid, and these were probably originally intended as embroidery for a suite of seat-furniture.
Further panels from this series are held in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Rhode Island Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Jean-Demosthène Dugourc (1749-1825) was brought up at Versailles. His father was Comptroller of the Household to the Duc d'Orléans and he shared his lessons with the Duc de Chartres. From childhood he had studied drawing, perspective and architecture. When his father lost his money, he became Dessinateur du Cabinet to the Comte de Provence. He was commissioned to design fêtes at Brûnoy for the Comte de Provence, operas in Stockholm for the King of Sweden, interiors for the Grand Duke Paul of Russia and a Palace for the Empress Catherine the Great which was never built. In 1785 he became Dessinateur du Garde-Meuble de la Couronne and Intendant des Bâtiments du Comte de Provence. In 1790 he became Inspecteur Général des Manufactures de France and set up a wallpaper printworks, a factory imitating English crystal, and others for making playing cards and porcelain. He worked with his brother in law, the architect Francois-Joseph Bélanger on the Pavillon at Bagatelle. In 1799 he went to Madrid as Architect to the King. During the Restauration his old patron the Comte de Provence, now King, made him Peintre du Roi and he began a new career in book illustration.