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The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image

The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image


The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 100 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 change in interiors, and sets tapestries on a new plane. Later on, they are still further diminished. But the sadness of noting this change is routed by the thrills of pleasure given by the exquisite design, colour and weave. The Portières of the Gods was, then, a series of eight small hangings, four typifying the seasons and four the elements, with an appropriate Olympian forming the central point of interest and the excuse for an entourage of thrilling and graceful versatility. This set has been copied so many times that even the most expert must fail in trying to identify the date of reproduction. Two hundred and thirty times this set is known to have been reproduced, and such talented weavers were given the task as Jans and Lefebvre. See larger image GOBELINS TAPESTRY. TIME OF LOUIS XV In this exquisite period, which might be called the adolescence of the style Louis XV, Audran and his collaborators produced another marvellous and inspired set of portières. These were executed for the Grand Dauphin, to decorate his room in the château at Meudon, and were called the Grotesque Months in Bands. The most self-sufficient of pens would falter at a description of design so exquisite, which is arranged in three panels with a deity in each, a composition of extraordinary grace above and below them, and a bordering band of losenge or diaper, on which is set the royal double L and the significant dolphin who gave his name to kings’ sons. The exquisite art of Audran and of the regence cannot be better seen than in this set of tapestries which was woven but once at the royal factory, although repeated many times elsewhere with the border altered, Audran’s being too personal for other chambers than that of the prince for whom it was composed. Recently copies have been made without border. The name of the artist, Charles Coypel, must not be overlooked, for it was he who composed the celebrated suite of Don Quixote. Twenty-eight pieces composed the

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 101 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 series, and they were drawn with that exquisite combination of romantic scenes and fields of pure decorative design that characterised the charm of the regence. In the centre of each piece (small pieces compared to those of Louis XIV) was a scene like a painting representing an incident from the adventure of the humorously pathetic Spanish wanderer; and this was surrounded with so much of refined decoration as to make it appear but a medallion on the whole surface. This set was so important as to be repeated many times and occupied the factory of the Gobelins from 1718 to 1794. Charles Coypel was but twenty when he composed the first design for this suite. Each year thereafter he added a new design, not supplying the last one until 1751. But, while all honour is due Coypel, Audran and Le Maire and their collaborators must be remembered as having composed the borders, the pure decorative work which expresses the tender style of transition, the suggestive period of early spring that later matured into the fulsome Rococo. America is enriched by five of these exquisite pieces through Mr. Morgan’s recent purchase. But while artists were producing purity in art, those in political power were, with ever-increasing effect, plunging morals into the mud. Philippe, the Regent, died, the corrupt Duke of Bourbon took the place of minister, and poor Louis XV was still but thirteen years old, and unavoidably influenced by the lives of those around him. Even the Gobelins was under the hand of the shallow Duke d’Antin. Yet even when the king matured and became himself a power for corruption, the artists of the Gobelins reflected only beauty and light. It is to their credit. It is an ungrateful task to pick flaws with a period so firmly enthroned in the affections as that of the regence and the early years of the reign of Louis XV. The beauties of its pure decoration lead us into Elysian fields that are but reluctantly left behind. But the designs and tapestry weavers of that time left us two distinct classes of production, and to be learned in such matters, the amateur contemplates both. This second style is ungrateful because it trains us away from art, delicate and ingenious, and plants us before enormous woven paintings. Now it never had been the intention of tapestry to replace painting. Whenever it leaned that way a deterioration was evident. It was by the lure of this fallacy that Brussels lost her pre-eminence. It was through this that the number of tones was increased from the twenty or more of Arras to the twenty thousand of the Gobelins. It was through this that the true mission of tapestry was lost, which was the mission of supplying a soft, undulating lining to the habitat of man, and flashes of colour for his pageants. Under Louis XIV the pictures came thick and fast, as we have seen, but in deep-toned, simple colour-scheme. Now, with the De Cottes as directors at the Gobelins, and with a new reign begun, more pictures were called for. The splendid History of the King of Louis XIV could not be forgotten; the history of his successor must be similarly represented, and what could this be but a series of woven paintings. The flower of the time was an exquisitely complicated decoration on a small scale. The larger expression was not spontaneous. Louis XV, poor boy, was not old enough to have had many events outside the nursery, so it took imagination—perhaps that of the elegant profligate, Duke d’Antin—to suggest an occasion of appropriate splendour and significance. The official reception of the Turkish ambassador in 1721 was the subject chosen, and under the direction of Charles Parrocel became a superb work, full of court magnificence of the day and a valuable portrayal to us of the boyhood of the king. The same type of big picture was continued in the series of Hunts of Louis XV, lovely forest scenes wherein much unsportsmanlike elegance displays itself in the persons of

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