Breathtaking Antique French Tapestry, Country of Origin: France, Circa Date: 18th Century – An Antique French Mythological Tapestry Gobelins Circa: 18th Century – 1714 – 1736, PROBABLY AFTER ANTOINE DIEU – Lifted from the pages of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, this arresting 18th century French tapestry epitomizes the baroque elegance and classical mythology that inspired some of the greatest tapestries produced by the famed Gobelin’s Manufactory.
This antique tapestry belongs to a series that is first recorded in correspondence between the 5th Earl of Exeter and his upholsterer for Burghley House, Lincolnshire, discussing the purchase of tapestries from Jean Jans in 1680 and 1681. The original seven subjects were later expanded by a further fifteen panels, known as petite tenture, that were in part based on paintings paid for between 1704 and 1706 by such artists as Jean-Baptiste de Fontenay, Louis de Boulogne, Nicolas Bertin, Antoine Coypel and Charles de la Fosse.
In the early years these tapestries appear to only have been woven for private patrons. Gobelins records the first official weaving for Louis XIV in 1714. The cartoons for the series are last mentioned in 1736 as ruined.
It can thus be assumed that the series was woven between 1680 and 1736, while this particular tapestry belonging to the petite tenture would have been woven sometime between 1714 and 1736.
This particular subject is extremely close to a drawing by Antoine Dieu in the National Museum, Stockholm (E.A. Standen, ‘Ovid’s Metamorphoses: A Gobelins Tapestry Series’, Metropolitan Museum Journal, 1988, p. 171, fig. 29) and suggests that he was the designer even if not mentioned in the official records of Gobelins.
The illustrative scene depicts the handsome Narcissus happily gazing into the waters of an ornate fountain while the lovelorn nymph Echo symbolically recedes into the background. Sinuous vines of ivy, shaggy hunting dogs and masterfully shaded leaves contribute to the gloaming bucolic style of this famous mythical scene. The beautifully executed composition features astounding painterly details juxtaposed against a simulated gilded frame. Deeply carved niches, beautifully shaded bead work and dimensional trophy ornaments conclude the refined baroque composition of this spectacular antique 17th century French tapestry.