THE ROYAL COMMISSIONS
At least ten sets of this series are known to have been woven. Five of these were woven for Louis XV as gifts to foreign courts and are likely to have contained the Royal coat-of-arms. The first, woven between February 1754 and April 1757, was given to Count von Moltke, marshal at the court of Denmark, in 1759 and is today in the Danish Royal Collection. One suite, woven in 1758, was probably in Madame de Pompadour's apartments at Versailles in 1781, before being sold to the Comte de Vergennes in 1784. The third Royal set was woven in circa 1759 and given to two Chinese Jesuits, Aloys Kao and Thomas Yang who had studied in France, on their return to China in 1765, by the foreign minister Henri Léonard-Jean-Baptiste Bertin, who was in charge of the Jesuit mission in Beijing. The Jesuits presented the set as a gift from the French colonies to the Emperor Qianlong (d. 1799) in 1767. He installed it in his 'European' Summer Palace Yuanmingyuan. After the anglo-french troops sacked the palace in 1860 two tapestries were taken to Europe, while four, including this subject, appear to have remained in the National Museum of China in Beijing and were recorded there in 1924. The fourth Royal set woven in 1767 - 1769 was supplied to the Ministère des Affaires Etrangères in 1769 but has a Greek Key pattern border. The last set woven in 1774 - 1775, excluding this subject, was supplied to the contrôleur des Finances Maynon d'Inveau in 1775.
Interestingly, the tapestry that J.-J. Marquet de Vasselot records in his Catalogue Raisonné de la Collection Martin Le Roy, Paris, 1908, p. 90, appears to be an unrecorded additional weaving of the series for Louis XV. That tapestry, with the Royal coat-of-arms was recorded to be at the end of the 19th Century in the château de Rosny-sur-Seine in the Seine-et-Oise, originally built by the duc de Sully, minister to Henri IV. The house still contained a set of six Paris Psyche tapestries from Sully's time and two Brussels tapestries from the Alexander series, until 1993, when they were purchased by the state. The Boucher chinoiserie tapestry, however, must have left the collection at an earlier stage. It was only 407 cm. wide, so the closest in measurement to the offered lot, and therefore probably identifiable with the offered lot (Royal sets 1,4 and 5 can for certain not be identified with this tapestry, while sets 2 and 3 were 424 cm. and 435 cm wide, respectively). It was said to have been in the Noailles family, who received it as a gift of Louis XV. If the quoted reference is correct, this set appears to be an unrecorded weaving for Louis XV. It would then probably have been either given to Duc Adrien-Maurice de Noailles, doyen of the maréchaux and Pair de France (1678 - 1766), or to comte Pilippe de Noailles, also maréchal de France and gouverneur of Versailles (1715 - 1794).
François Boucher (1703 - 1770) supplied the designs of this series to Jean-Baptiste Oudry (1686 - 1755), the director of the Royal Beauvais Tapestry Workshop as the third suite of tapestries designed for the workshop. He exhibited the set of eight Chinoiserie paintings at the Salon at the Louvre between August and September 1742 (today in the Bibliothèque in Besançon). Their designs were immediately translated to cartoons by Jean-Joseph Dumons de Tulle (1687 - 1779) and the successful series, consisting of six subjects, was woven at least ten times between July 1743 and August 1775 at Beauvais and in addition further copied were made at Aubusson. Boucher, who is known to have owned many Chinese objects, took inspiration for the tapestries from engravings, some from the previous century, but also from illustrations on export porcelain and other Chinese objects. It was arguably Boucher who popularized the Chinoiserie style again in the 1740s and his figures, objects and Oriental forms became basic components of the European rococo.
An example of the Foire chinoise with Royal coat-of-arms was in the collection of Mrs. F.F. Prentiss and is today in the Cleveland Museum of Art (M. Jarry, 'the Wealth of Boucher Tapestries in American Museums', Antiques, August 1972, p. 227), while another showing La Pêche chinoise is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (G.L. Hunter, 'America's Beauvais-Boucher Tapestries', International Studio, November 1926, p. 27). A further example with Royal coat-of-arms of the La Toilette with unrecorded location is illustrated in R.-A. Weigert et al., French Tapestry, Paris, 1947, p. 53. A Chinese Banquet with Royal arms (335 x 307), then believed to be that from the Jesuit set, was sold anonymously, Sotheby's, New York, 12 November 1999, lot 394.
(P.-F. Bertrand, 'La Seconde "Tenture Chinoise" tissée à Beauvais et Aubusson', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, November 1990, pp. 173 - 184; C. Adelson, European Tapestry at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, 1994, pp. 322 - 342)