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Work The Boucher Tapestries

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: rococo

Four tapestries from the sixth weaving of the "Loves of the Gods"

© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
18th century: rococo

Author(s):
de Ribou Marie-Hélène

This tapestry is one of a set of four pieces. François Boucher, art director of the Gobelins tapestry manufactory from 1755 to 1770, designed the pictorial medallion in the center, which simulates a painting hung on the wall. The decorative surrounds on a crimson background were designed by Maurice Jacques. The two artists worked together on many tapestries with decorative surrounds, which were among the most prized productions of the Gobelins manufactory.

A tapestry combining a painting and a damask hanging

The tapestry depicts a painting on a decorative surround that simulates a crimson damask wall covering, which is separated from the background by a light frame suggesting gilt wood, ornamented with flowers and animals. The whole scene is enlivened by garlands and bunches of flowers. In the center of the damask ground, the painting is made to appear as though it has been hung from the upper edge of the frame by means of two blue cords. Psyche is shown holding an oil lamp over the sleeping Cupid with one hand, while in the other she holds a dagger, with which she is about to stab him. A little cupid on the left stays her hand.

An exceptional wall hanging

This tapestry is part of a set of four pieces, which in winter adorned the alcove in the bedchamber of the duchess of Bourbon (1750-1822). Each piece in the set, sometimes called the Loves of the Gods, shows a scene involving a god or goddess. The other pieces depict Vertumnus and Pomona, Venus rising from the waves, and Aurora and Cephalus. The set had matching bed hangings, twelve armchairs, two bergères, a screen, and a folding screen, all in tapestry produced by Gobelins. The duchess's winter bedroom furnishings greatly impressed such contemporaries as Dezallier d'Argenville, Thiery, and Dulaure, who mentioned them in their descriptions of Paris.
In 1770 Louis Henri Joseph de Bourbon, the son of the prince de Condé, married his cousin Louise Marie Thérèse d'Orléans. The prince gave his daughter-in-law the ceremonial apartment he had just had refurbished in the Hôtel de Lassay. The furnishings, especially those used in winter, gave the room its very feminine, luxurious atmosphere. The set was broken up and sold in a Revolutionary auction in 1793. The four tapestries issued by the Mobilier National have been joined by the base and canopy of the bed, which are now on display in the same room.

A decorative tapestry

Tapestries with decorative surrounds initially appeared in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, with the History of Don Quixote, a set after Charles Coypel, Blin de Fontenay, and Claude Audran. This approach reached its highest point with the collaboration between Boucher and Jacques. Rather than great historical or mythological scenes, eighteenth-century taste preferred lighter subjects handled in a more decorative manner. Combining Boucher's elegant compositions with Jacques' refined surrounds, these tapestries were considered to be the most successful and spectacular of the Gobelins productions in the eighteenth century. However, in seeking to imitate painting and various decorative techniques, they also showed a certain dependence on trompe-l'oeil. For all of these reasons, this piece, which has kept its vivid colors, is a perfect example of eighteenth-century tapestry production.

Bibliography

MAGNY Françoise, Le Faubourg Saint-Germain. Palais Bourbon, sa place, Paris, Editions de la Délégation artistique de la ville de Paris, 1987 (particulièrement les pages 35-36 et 52-57)

VERLET Pierre, "Tapisseries et fond de lit de la Chambre Rose au Palais Bourbon", in Revue des Arts, n 4, 1953, p. 244

Technical description

  • Manufacture des Gobelins

    Four tapestries from the sixth weaving of the "Loves of the Gods"

    C. 1775

    Paris

  • Basse lisse tapestry, wool and silk, the ground imitating crimson damask ??

  • Provenance : Alcove set for the winter "Meuble" (all the textiles for a room : hangings and upholsteries) in the duchesse de Bourbon’s “Chambre Rose” at the Palais Bourbon; sold during the Revolution (1794); assigned from the Mobilier National, 1901*

    -"Cupid and Psyche"
    - "Vertumnus and Pomona"
    -"Venus Emerging from the Waters
    - "Aurora and Cephalus"

    OA 5118, OA 5119, OA 5120, OA 5121

  • Decorative Arts

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