The Artemisia series is based on a poem by Nicolas Houel, an important parisian apothecary and founder of the Maison de la Charité chrétienne, entitled Histoire de la Royne Arthemise. He dedicated it to the French Queen Catherine de' Medici in 1562 in an attempt to court her. The poem is meant to described the life of Artemisia, Queen of Caria in Asia Minor and to be emblematic of Houel's revered Queen. He even supplied designs that could serve as basis for paintings or tapestries, fifty-three of which survive today. The first set was, however, not woven until Henri IV revitalised the tapestry industry in Paris forty years later. For the first thirty years of its existence, these designs enjoyed a great success in the tapestry workshop. It is believed that about thirty different sets (none of them consisting of all panels) were woven. Forty-six subjects from the series are known, but on average only 8 - 10 tapestries were supplied per set. The subjects of the sets could easily be adjusted to the programme that the patron needed. Most of the subjects were designed by Antoine Caron (d. 1599), but later Henri Lerambert (d. 1608), peintre des tapisseries du roi, and numerous other artists expanded the series. Lerambert supplied many of the smaller panels of the series in an effort to create a choice of subjects that would not only suit large rooms, but could also decorate smaller walls.
Nine differing borders are associated with this series. This border was one of the most popular and is virtually identical to that of a set of five formerly at château de Noizay, Indre-et-Loire, that was sold 19 March 1928, lot 75 A-E. Four have been identified and three of them are today at the hôtel de Sully, Paris, while the fifth panel was described as Char d'Artemise, so unlikely to be this panel. However, what is particularly interesting to note is that all five had also lost their lower border, suggesting that the offered lot may have formed part of the same set at one point. One of the tapestries from Noizay retained the unidentified weaver's signature 'FM', which has recently been proven not to be that of Philippe de Maecht, who left Paris for Mortlake in 1619. Interestingly tapestries with apparently identical borders (including the ram's heads to the top angles) are recorded in the collection of Nicolas Fouquet, whose collection passed to Louis XIV after his arrest. These tapestries were subsequently hung at Chambord and were sold in 1794. A further set of six tapestries with these borders are at Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire (A.F. Kendrick, 'Tapestries at Eastnor I', Burlington Magazine, October 1915, pp. 23 - 29), one each in the Louvre, Paris, and the Vatican and two at the New Orleans Museum of Art. Three further tapestries with these borders from the collection of Esther Slater Kerrigan, sold Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 8-10 January 1942, lots 429 - 431.
(C. Adelson, European Tapestry in The Minneapolis Institute of Art, New York, 1994, pp. 161 - 200; Lisses et délices, Chefs-d'oeuvres de la tapisserie, exhibition catalogue, Château de Chambord, September 1996 - January 1997, pp. 74 - 77)