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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. 114 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 It is considered a great fact in the history of the factory that the king paid it a visit in 1686; that he paraded and rested his important person under the shade of the living verdure in its garden. But it seems more to the point that Béhagle made for it a success both artistic and commercial, and this continued as long as he had breath. Also was it a feather in his cap that at the time when the Gobelins factory was sighing and dying for lack of funds, the provincial factory of Beauvais not only remained prosperous, but opened its doors to many of the starving operatives from the Gobelins ateliers, thus saving them from the horrid fate of joining the Dragonades, as some of their fellows had done. But the followers of the able Béhagle had not his capability. After his twenty years of prosperity the factory languished under the direction of his widow and sons, and that of the brothers Filleul, and Micou, up to the time when the Regent Philip was fumbling the reigns of government, and when everything but scepticism and Les Precieuses was sinking into feeble disintegration. The factory became a financial failure from which the regent had not power to lift it. Again we see the name of the son of Madame de Montespan, the Duke d’Antin, who was at this time director of buildings for the crown and in this capacity had the power of choosing the directors of both the Gobelins and Beauvais. The place of director at Beauvais was empty; d’Antin must have the credit of filling it wisely with the painter Jean-Baptiste Oudry. He was a man endowed with the sort of energy we are apt to consider modern and American. He already occupied a high place in the Gobelins, and retained it, too, while he lifted Beauvais from the Slough of Despond, and carried it to its most brilliant flowering. See larger image BEAUVAIS TAPESTRY. EIGHTEENTH CENTURY Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 115 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image BEAUVAIS TAPESTRY. TIME OF LOUIS XVI Collection of Wm. Baumgarten, Esq., New York It is only as the history of a factory touches us that we are interested in its changes. The result of Oudry’s direction is one that we see so frequently in a small way that it is agreeable to recognise its cause. Oudry was pre-eminently a painter of animals. Add to this the tendency to draw cartoons in suites and the demand for furniture coverings, and at once we have the raison d’être of the design seen over and over again nowadays on old tapestried chairs, the designs picturing the Fables of La Fontaine. These were the especial work of Oudry who composed them, who put into them his best work as animal painter, and who set them on the looms of Beauvais many times. They had a success immediate. They became the fashion of the day, and the pride of the factory. If the artist had drawn with inspiration, the weavers copied with a fidelity little short of talent. So it is not surprising that a set of sofa and chairs on which these tapestries are displayed brings now an average of a thousand dollars a piece, even though the furniture frames are not excessively rich. Beauvais set the fashion for this suite, but as success has imitators who hope for success, many factories both in and out of France copied this series. How shall we know the true from the false? By that sixth sense that has its origin in a taste at once instinctive and cultivated. Oudry drew hangings for the small panelled spaces of the walls, to accompany this set of Fables. He also painted scenes from Molière’s comedies, which at least show him master of the human figure as well as of the lines of animals. We are now, it must be remembered, in the time of Louis XV, the time of beautiful gaiety and light sarcasm, of epigramme, and miniature, and of all that declared itself multum in parvo. Therefore it was that even wall-hangings were reduced in size and polished, so to speak, to a perfection most admirable. Paintings were copied, actually copied, on the looms, but however much the fact may be deplored that tapestry had wandered far from its original days of grand simplicity, it were unjust not to recognise the exquisite perfection of the manner in vogue in the middle of the Eighteenth Century, and of the perfection of the craftsman. The pieces of Beauvais that are accessible to us are indeed charming to live with,

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