Rug # 21100
Tapestry, probably Beauvais, France
7’0” x 7’8”
Probably second half of the 19th century
In the style of Francois Boucher (mid 18th century)
Structure and Materials:
Warp: wool, natural, tan, Z-3-S, 19-20/in
Weft: wool, Z-2-S, 50-60/in
silk, Z-2-S, 50-100/in
The present panel depicts a scene from classical mythology, but a full identification is not yet possible. In a mountainous, wooded landscape a herdsman plays a flute beneath a tree on a hillock, all to the right. A lyre rests at his feet and a shepherd’s crook lies in his lap. At the upper right, Mercury (Hermes) flies in clutching a quiver and bow. Behind the tree at far right are several cows. A youthful, winged figure, almost certainly Cupid (Eros) listens raptly to the music. Three maidens in dancing poses approach from the left up a slope. The image is closed on the left by a full, leafy tree and floral garlands hang from trees on both sides. There are still lifes of fruit in the foreground as well as naturalistically depicted flowering plants.
The subject of the tapestry hinges on the identity of the piping figure. The lyre would indicate Apollo, but since it has been discarded in favor of the flute, the identification is less likely.
What Beauvais series this is not from is easier to determine. It is not a part of either The Loves of the Gods (Amour, des Dieux) nor Scenes from Operas, both executed at Beauvais from 1750 onward. The former series has much larger (up to 14’0” x 17’0”) panels and more complex iconography. The latter series of only four subjects is not comparable in subject matter. The style is certainly derivative of Boucher, but the rendering seems less assured and more generic. It is not the work of Gobelins: there is a Loves of the Gods series from that manufactory, but neither the large panels nor the subsidiary sections, executed from 1757 onwards, are in any way similar to the present piece even though a few share subject matter with the contemporary Beauvais ensemble.
We are left with two possibilities: first that this panel is part of a larger, untraced mid 18th century tapestry, itself likely part of a series, of Beauvais origin. Less likely since all the action is directed toward and converges near the Cupid figure. Secondly, that it is a 19th century quasi pastiche of Boucheresque themes and depictions. The relatively small size (see below), a feature of 19th century production, may militate in this direction. The date, then, could well be in the 2nd half of the 19th century. The standard work on Beauvais weaving (Jules Badini Le Manufacture des Tapisserie de Beauvais, 1909, Paris) does not discuss 19th century production in any detail and is, in any case, out-of-date. No such piece appears in major museum catalogues.
Originally there was a faux giltwood picture frame border about 6”-8” wide, giving and overall size of 8’0”-8’4” x 8’8”-9’0”. It has been slightly framed all around, especially on the right. A plain woven two tone brown selvage has been added.
There are areas of wear and powdering in the silk; minor splitting, and creases. The colors are slightly faded, but the red of the piping figure has held up well. The distant landscape is quite pastel.
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