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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. 78 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image TRIUMPH OF JUNO Gobelins under Louis XIV. The attention of Francis was also turned much to Spain through envy of that extraordinary man of luck and ability, the Emperor Charles V, and from whom he made abortive and sullen efforts to wrest Germany, Italy, anything he could get. In his imprisonment in Madrid, Francis had time in plenty on which to think of many things, and why not on the wonderful tapestries of which Spain has always had a collection to make envious the rest of Europe. He might forget his two poor little boys who were left as hostages on his release, but he forgot not whatever contributes to the pleasure of life. That peculiarity was one which was yielding luscious fruit, however, for Francis was the bearer of the torch of the Renaissance which was to illumine France with the same fire that flashed and glowed over Italy. This is a fact to remember in regard to the class of designs of his own and succeeding periods in France. How he got his ideas we can reasonably trace, and the result of them was that he established a royal tapestry factory in beautiful Fontainebleau, which lies hid in grateful shade, stretching to flowered fields but a reasonable distance from the distractions of Paris. It pleased Francis—and perhaps the beautiful Diane de Poitiers and Duchesse d’Étampes—to critique plays in that tiny gem of a theatre at the palace, or to feed the carp in the pool; but also it gave him pleasure to wander into the rooms where the high-warp looms lifted their utilitarian lengths and artists played at magic with the wools. Alas, one cannot dress this patronage of art with too much of disinterestedness, for these marvellous weavings were for the adornment of the apartments of the very persons who caused their productions. The grand idea of state ateliers had not yet come to bless the industry. For this reason

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 79 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 the factory at Fontainebleau outlasted the reign of its founder, Francis I, but a short time. Nevertheless, examples of its works are still to be seen and are of great beauty, notably those at the Museum of the Gobelins in Paris. That a series called the History of Diana was produced is but natural, considering the puissance at court of the famous Diane de Poitiers. When Francis’ son, Henri II, enfeebled in constitution by the Spanish confinement, inherited the throne, it was but natural that he should neglect the indulgences of his father and prefer those of his own. The Fontainebleau factory strung its looms and copied its cartoons and produced, too, certain hangings for Henri’s wife, the terrible Catherine de Medici, on which her vicious eyes rested in forming her horrid plots; but Henri had ambitions of his own, small ambitions beside those which had to do with jealousy of Charles Quint. He let the factory of Francis I languish, but carried on the art under his own name and fame. To give his infant industry a home he looked about Paris and decided upon the Hôpital de la Trinité, an institution where asylum was found for the orphans of the city who seem, in the light of the general brutality of the time, to have been even in more need of a home than the parentless child of modern civilisation. A part of the scheme was to employ in the works such children as were sufficiently mature and clever to work and to learn at least the auxiliary details of a craft that is also an art. In this way the sixty or so of the orphans of La Trinité were given a means of earning a livelihood. Among them was one whose name became renowned. This was Maurice du Bourg, whose tapestries surpassed all others of his time in this factory—an important factory, as being one of the group that later was merged into the Gobelins. It must be remembered in identifying French tapestries of this kind that things Gothic had been vanquished by the new fashion of things Renaissance, and that all models were Italian. Giulio Romano and his school of followers were the mode in France, not only in drawing, but in the revival of classic subject. This condition in the art world found expression in a set of tapestries from the factory of La Trinité that are sufficiently celebrated to be set down in the memory with an underscoring. This set was composed of fifteen pieces illustrating in sweeping design and gorgeous colouring the History of Mausolus and Artemisia. Intense local and personal interest was given to the set by making an open secret of the fact that by Artemisia, the Queen of Halicarnassus, was meant the widowed Queen of France, Catherine de Medici, who adored posing as the most famous of widows and adding ancient glory to her living importance. To this History French writers accord the important place of inspirer of a distinctively French Renaissance. The weaver being Maurice du Bourg, the chief of the factory of La Trinité, the artists were Henri Lerambert and Antoine Carron, but the set has been many times copied in various factories, and Artemisia has symbolised in turn two other widowed queens of France. Into the throne of France climbed wearily a feeble youth always under the influence of his mother, Catherine de Medici; and then it was filled by two other incapable and final Orleans monarchs, until at last by virtue of inheritance and sword, it became the seat of that grand and faulty Henri IV, King of Navarre. By fighting he got his place, and the habit being strong upon him, he was in eternal conflict. Some there be who are developed by sympathy, but Henri IV was developed by opposition, and thus it was that although opposed in the matter by his Prime Minister, Sully, he established factories for the weaving of tapestries in both high and low warps.

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