This pair of panels probably forms part of a set that includes two tapestry panels presently in France. Those tapestries do, however, join two such subjects within one identical border. They depict Zephyr and Flora as well as Hyppomenes and Atalanta framed by the same whimsical architectural structure, above panels of playing youths and monkeys. The French panels also incorporate further ornamental designs at the top and the bottom of the main field and are thus larger than this lot (395 x 196 cm.).
The designs of these tapestries recall the Portières des Dieux tapestries, which are based on a very similar iconography, incorporating similar architecture and animals. That series comprised four panels of the Seasons and four panels of the Gods and were commissioned by Mansard from Claude Audran Le Jeune (d. 1684) in 1699. The figures were drawn by Louis de Boulogne (d. 1733) and Michel Corneille fils (d. 1708), while the animals were probably designed by Alexandre-François Desportes (d. 1743). Four narrow panels of that series, which are visually very closely related, were sold anonymously in these Rooms, 21 November 1963, lot 171.
These panels can also be compared to tapestries from an undocumented commission from the private ateliers of Jean de la Fraye, director of the fourth basse lisse workshop (1699 - 1730) and Etienne Le Blond, head of the fifth basse lisse atelier (1701 - 1727) at Gobelins. The series, which forms part of the Grog-Carven bequest to the Louvre, depicts the Triumph of Flora and is also believed to have been designed by Michel Corneille fils (D. Alcouffe, 'La Collection Grog-Carven entre au Louvre', L'Estampille, March 1997, pp. 42 - 43, and F. Joubert, A. Leférbure, P.-F. Bertrand, Histoire de la Tapisserie, Paris, 1995, pp. 194 - 197). The tapestries depict putti and Flora beneath pergolas that are richly hung with flowers, on a blue ground that is very similar to that of the borders of the these panels and that are within a comparable border of a central stem with floral bouquets. Two further panels of the series are at the Hermitage (N. Biriukova, Les Tapisseries Françaises de la Fin du XVe au XXe Siècle dans les Collections de L'Ermitage, Leningrad, 1974, cats. 62 - 63).
Les Douze Mois Grotesques, which were designed by Claude Audran Le Jeune (d. 1734), Antoine Watteau (d. 1721) and Alexandre- François Desportes fo= the Dauphin between 1708 and 1709 (see lot 168 in this sale and lot 180, =old in these Rooms, 21 June 2000) also relate closely to this pair. Th=y are based on the same bérainesque architecture and iconographi=al composition. Interestingly nearly all of the surviving examples were woven in private workshops at Gobelins and are not documented in the official records.
It is therefore probable that these mythological tapestry panels were also woven in a private atelier at the Gobelins and form part of an unrecorded commission. It is possible that Michel Corneille fils contributed to their design. Ultimately, however, the design of these tapestries is based on Jean I Bérain (d. 1711), Dessinateur de la Chambre et du Cabinet du Roi from 1675. He is credited with the popularisation of the arabesque style, usually termed grotesque, which is based on Raphael's designs in the Loggie at the Vatican.
There is another tantalising comparison that can be made to this pair of tapestries. The Ducs de Lorraine established a tapestry workshop in Nancy in 1698 that was highly regarded and relatively prolific. Although the atelier moved to Luneville and Malgrange, it remained consistent and continued to weave tapestries until 1737. A remarkable amount of tapestries from these workshops were based on Bérain's designs, and are not dissimilar to this pair (M. Antoine, Les Manufactures de tapisserie des Ducs de Lorraine au XVIIIe Siecle, Nancy, 1965, plates XXV - XXXI). The surviving records do, however, not shed enough light on its production to link them to these workshops.
Ovid (Metamorphoses 3: 339 - 510) tells how Echo was condemned by Juno to repeat only the last words that were spoken to her. Narcissus, who did not answer Echo's love for him, was made to fall in love with his own image. At their death, Narcissus turned into a flower bearing his name, while only the voice of Echo remained.