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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. 90 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 helped in deposing the splendid brigand Foucquet, and his power was serving France well, so well that he brought about his head the inevitable jealousy which finally threw him, too, into unmerited disgrace. Colbert, then, although a Minister of State, head of the Army of France, and a few other things, had the fate of the Gobelins in his hand. As the ablest is he who chooses best his aids, Colbert looked among his countrymen for the proper director of the newly-organised institution. He selected Charles Lebrun. The very name seems enough, in itself. It is the concrete expression of ability, not only as an artist, but as a leader of artists, a director, an assembler, a blender. He called to the Gobelins, as addition to those already there, the apprentices from La Trinité, the weavers from the Faubourg St. Germain, and from the Louvre. He established three ateliers of high-warp under Jean Jans, Jean Lefebvre and Henri Laurent; also two ateliers of low-warp under Jean Delacroix and Jean-Baptiste Mozin. When charged with the decoration of Versailles he had under his direction fifty artists of differing scopes, which alone would show his power of assembling and leading, of blending and ordering. Workers at the Gobelins numbered as many as two hundred fifty, and apprentices were legion. Ten or twelve important artists composed the designs for tapestries, yet the mind of Lebrun is seen to dominate all; his genius was their inspiration. It was he whose influence pervaded the decorative art of the day. More than any others in that grand age he influenced the tone of the artistic work. We may say it was the king, we may have styles named for the king, but it was Lebrun who made them what they were. The spirit of the time was there, monarch and man made that, but it was Lebrun who had the talent to express it in art. It was a time when France was fully awake, more fully awake than Italy who had, in fact, commenced the somnolence of her art; she was strong with that brutal force that is recently up from savagery, and she took her grandeur seriously. At least that was the attitude of the king. No lightness, no effervescing cynical humour ever disturbed the heavy splendour of his pose. And this grand pose of the king, Lebrun expressed in the heavy sumptuousness of decoration. The tapestries of that time show the mood of the day in subject, in border and in colour. All is superb, grandiose. Rubens, although not of France, dominated Europe with his magnificence of style, a style suited to the time, expressing force rather than refinement, yet with a splendid decorative value in the art we are considering. Flanders looked to him for inspiration, and his lead was everywhere followed. His virile work had power to inspire, to transmit enthusiasm to others, and thus he was responsible for much of the improvement in decorative art, the re-establishment of that art upon an intellectual basis. Designs from his hands were full, splendid and self-assertive; harmony and proportion were there. A study of the Antony and Cleopatra series and of the plates given in this volume will establish and verify this.

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 91 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image DESIGN BY RUBENS See larger image DESIGN BY RUBENS Lebrun’s century was the same as that of Rubens, but the former had the fine feeling for art of the Latin, who knows that its first province is to please. A comparison between the two men must not be carried too far, for Rubens was essentially a painter, attacking the field of decoration only with the overflow of imagination, while Lebrun’s life and talent were wholly directed in the way of beautifying palaces and châteaux. Yet Rubens’ work gave a fresh impulse to tapestry weaving in Brussels while Lebrun

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