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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. 84 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 or those of a previous time. After Mazarin came Foucquet, the great, the iconoclastic, the unfortunate. It was at Foucquet’s estate of Vaux near Maincy that this tapestry factory of short duration was established and soon destroyed. The powerful Superintendent of Finance, with his eye for the beautiful and desire for the luxury of kings, built for himself such a château as only the magnificence of that time produced. It was situated far enough from Paris to escape any sort of ennui, and was surrounded by gardens most marvellous, within a beauteous park. It lay, when finished, like a jewel on the fair bosom of France. The great superintendent conceived the idea of pleasing the young king, Louis XIV, by inviting the court for a wondrous fête in its lovely enclosure. Foucquet was a man of the world, and of the court, knew how to please man’s lighter side, and how to use social position for his own ends. France calls him a “dilapidateur,” but when his power and incidentally the revenues of state, were laid out to produce a day of pleasure for king and court, his taste and ability showed such a fête as could scarce be surpassed even in those days of artistic fêtes champêtres. The great gardens were brought into use in all the beauty of flower and vine, of lawn and bosquet, of terrace and fountain. When the guests arrived, weary of town life, they were turned loose in the enchanting place like birds uncaged, and to the beauty of Nature was added that of folk as gaily dressed as the flowers. The king was invited to inspect it all for his pleasure, asked to feast in the gardens, and to repose in the splendid château. He was young then, in the early twenties, and luxury was younger then than now, so he was pleased to spend the time in almost childish enjoyments. A play al fresco was almost a necessity to a royal garden party, which was no affair of an hour like ours in the busy to-day, but extended the livelong day and evening. Molière was ready with his sparkling satires at the king’s caprice, and into the garden danced the players before an audience to whom vaudeville and café chantant were exclusively a royal novelty arranged for their delectation. It is easy to see the elegant young king and his court in the setting of a sophisticated out-of-doors, wandering on grassy paths, lingering under arches of roses, plucking a flower to nest beside a smiling face, stopping where servants—obsequious adepts, they were then—supplied dainty things to eat and drink. Madame de Sevigné was there, she of the observant eye, an eye much occupied at this time with the figure of Superintendent Foucquet, the host of this glorious occasion. This gracious lady lacked none of the appearance of frivolity, coiffed in curls, draped in lace and soft silks, but her mind was deeply occupied with the signs of the times. All the elegance of the château, all the seductive beauty of terrace, garden, and bosquet, all the piquant surprises of play and pyrotechnics, what were they? Simply the disinterested effort of a subject to give pleasure to His Majesty, the King. There were those present who had long envied Foucquet, with his ever-increasing power and wealth, his ability to patronise the arts, to collect, and even to establish his tapestry looms like a king, for his own palace and for gifts. This grand fête in the lovely month of June did more than shower pleasure, more than gratify the lust of the eye. In effect, it was a gathering of exquisite beauties and charming men, lost in light-hearted play; in reality, it proved to be an incitive to envy and malice, and a means to ruin. Among the observant guests at this wondrous fête champêtre was Colbert, young, ambitious, keen. He was not slow to see the holes in Foucquet’s fabric, nor were others. And so, whispers came to the king. Foucquet’s downfall is the old story of envy, man trying to climb by ruining his superiors, hating those whose magnificence approaches their own. Foucquet’s unequalled entertainment of the king was made to

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 85 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 count as naught. Louis, even before leaving for Paris, had begun to ask whence came the money that purchased this wide fertile estate stretching to the vision’s limit, the money that built the château of regal splendour, the money that paid for the prodigal pleasures of that day of delights? Foucquet thought to have gained the confidence and admiration of the king. But, on leaving, Louis said coldly, “We shall scarce dare ask you to our poor palace, seeing the superior luxury to which you are accustomed.” A fearful cut, but only a straw to the fate which followed, the investigations into the affairs of Superintendent Foucquet. His arrest and his conviction followed and then the eighteen dreary years of imprisonment terminating only with the superintendent’s life. Madame de Sevigné saw him in the beginning, wept for her hero, but after a while she, too, fell away from his weary years. See larger image CHILDREN GARDENING After Charles Lebrun. Gobelins, Seventeenth Century. Château Henri Quatre, Pau

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