Louis-Marie Baader (French, 1828-1920), though largely overlooked save recent scholarship, was most recognized for his large-scale, historical paintings and scenes of life in Northwestern France. Baader received his formal education at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and exhibited at various expositions, including the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1866 where he debuted the award winning Héro et Léandre (40 in. x 70 in.). Baader’s impressively large works depicting figures such as Napoleon I and Cleopatra are part of several European institutional collections.
The firm of Braquenié et Cie, formed by Alexandre and Charles-Henri Braquenié in 1858, produced sumptuous tapestries for Royal courts and palaces throughout Europe. The firm owned workshops in both Aubusson and Malines, which positioned them to become the official suppliers for both the King of Belgium and Napoléon III. The designs typically interpreted classical and revival subject matter.
It is no wonder Braquenié et Cie looked to Baader for inspiration in the composition of the present lot. In 1880, Baader painted two large cartoons as the basis for the tapestries, Le Départ de la chase au faucon and Le Retour de la chasse. The dynamic composition is an innovative interpretation of the traditional Flemish ‘hunting’ tapestries of the 16th and 17th century on an enormous scale. Only a firm like Braquenié et Cie, arguably the leaders of decorative tapestry production in the 19th century, could execute a work of this magnitude successfully. The firm exhibited these tapestries at the 1885 Exposition Universelle in Antwerp and were awarded first prize. They were purchased from the exhibition by Baron Oppenheim.
John Bass (1891-1978) was an estimable collector. Bass was a Jewish immigrant from Vienna, whose assiduity led him to become president of the Fajardo Sugar Company. As an amateur artist himself, his connoisseurship helped him to develop an expansive collection of fine and decorative art, from ecclesiastical vestments to 20th century Latin American painting. Bass and his wife bequeathed a collection of over 500 works to the city of Miami Beach in 1963 on the promise the works would remain open to the public in perpetuity, therefore founding the Bass Museum of Art. In July of that year, John Bass communicated with French & Co. regarding the tapestries. In a letter dated July 11, 1963, Milton Samuels writes "It is my understanding that these tapestries are being submitted for consideration as a gift to a Museum in Miami Beach, Florida, where a special room will be made for them. In my opinion, they are certainly worthy of such an installation...It may of be of interest to you to learn that only recently when President Kennedy was here to celebrate his birthday at the Waldorf Astoria, one of these tapestries was used to decorate the Reception Hall." President John F. Kennedy's birthday celebration took place on May 22, 1963, six months before his assassination.