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Work Les Placets

Department of Decorative Arts: 17th century

Les PlacetsPièce d'une tenture de l'Histoire d'Arthémise

© Musée du Louvre / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
17th century

Author(s):
Ribou Marie-Hélène de

This panel forms part of the most important seventeenth-century tapestry, both in terms of the number of subjects depicted and the number of pieces woven. Its subject is taken from the poem that Nicolas Houel composed to the glory of Catherine de Médicis, widow of King Henry II and regent of France. The poem recounted the story of a 'Strong Woman', Queen Artemisia, who, as widow of King Mausolus, had taken on the regency and provided for her son's education in exemplary fashion.

Subject of the tapestry

The story of Artemisia is inspired by the lives of two queens of Caria, in Asia Minor. The first, who lived in the fifth century BC, distinguished herself by her actions and the way she educated her son, Lygdamus. The second, widow of King Mausolus in the following century, had an extraordinary tomb built as a symbol of her loyalty to her husband: the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The complete series is made up of forty-four panels representing the grandiose funeral ceremonies of King Mausolus, on the one hand; and, on the other, the regent's wise government and the education of her son. Each series is composed of a certain number of subjects, generally chosen according to the interests of the patron and highlighting the importance of the funeral procession and the regency.
This tapestry forms part of the second series: the queen, accompanied by her son toward whom her hand is pointing, is receiving a delegation of envoys in front of a columned portico.

How the tapestry came to be made

In 1562, a learned Parisian called Nicolas Houel dedicated a long poem to the glory of Catherine de Médicis, widow of King Henry II and regent of France. In it he compared her to Queen Artemisia, widow of King Mausolus, who, like her, was reputed to have assumed responsibility for the regency and for her son's education in an exemplary fashion. The text was illustrated by drawings designed to serve as models for "fine and rich tapestry paintings". Most of these were executed by Antoine Caron painter to the king.
It was only at the turn of the seventeenth century that Henri Lerambert, painter to the king's tapestry-makers, was commissioned to use these drawings as inspiration for tapestry cartoons. After his death, he was replaced by one of his successors working under him, Laurent Guyot. The cartoons were intended for the Louvre workshops, where the first of the tapestries were made. Following a common pattern in the history of tapestry-making, they then went to the workshop in the Faubourg Saint-Marcel, where several copies were woven. The tapestry bears the workshop's mark.

A new departure

In the sixteenth century, the Wars of Religion led to a decline in the art of tapestry-making in France. The Story of Artemisia, one of the first to be woven in the workshops set up by Henry IV, marked a revival of the technique. Although the subject and models were already half a century old, the theme glorifying a 'Strong Woman of Antiquity' was very fashionable. It seemed even more topical when Queen Marie de Médicis, the niece of the former queen, was appointed regent in lieu of her son, the young Louis XIII. Also of note is the appearance of wide, highly decorative borders, which continued to develop throughout the century in line with artistic trends in Paris at that time. The present tapestry, though it is very much in the Fontainebleau style with its cut leather motifs, already features the monochrome cartouches found on most tapestry borders in the first half of the century.

Bibliography

Un temps d'exubérance. Les arts décoratifs sous Louis XIII et Anne d'Autriche, Paris, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 2002.

Technical description

  • Atelier du faubourg Saint-Marcel

    Les PlacetsPièce d'une tenture de l'Histoire d'Arthémise

    Vers 1610

    Paris

  • Tapisserie, laine et soie

    H. : 4,05 m. ; L. : 3,60 m.

  • Versement du Mobilier national, 1906 , 1906

    D'après Antoine Caron, Laurent Guyot et Henri Lerambert

    OA 6068

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Henri IV
    Room 31

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Additional information about the work

Mark on the selvage, bottom right: FVP for François de La Planche (or van den Planken)Duke of Penthièvre collection, 1744