These four vibrantly coloured Royal tapestries were made from designs painted by Philippe II, Duc d'Orléans (1674-1723) when he was Regent of the Kingdom of France during the minority of Louis XV, with the assistance of the premier peintre du roi, Antoine Coypel (1661-1722). The Regent himself ordered the present set of tapestries for his own use, outside the official work of the Gobelins, in 1718. They were installed at the Palais-Royal, which during the Regency served as the seat of French government, and remained there until the Revolution.
In reaction against the severe taste under the reign of Philippe's uncle, Louis XIV, the Régence period gave way to a lighter, more frivolous aesthetic. The favored subjects for fine and decorative art were pleasant romantic narratives in idealized scenes of domestic and pastoral life. The subject of these tapestries is the ancient Greek romance Daphnis and Chloé by the 2nd century poet Longus and fits the Régence aesthetic well. The Regent first made a series of paintings with Coypel's guidance, apparently for one of the Duchess's cabinets. The series of paintings comprised five large canvases and twenty smaller ones. These designs were then engraved by Benoit Audran in 1718 for a new illustrated edition of Les Amours Pastorales de Daphnis et de Chloé, translated by Jacques Amyot and published in Paris by Quillan. The prestige associated with these editions was undoubtedly bolstered by the participation of the Regent, and Daphnis and Chloé became a fixture in the collections of French bibliophiles. The Regent ordered the present tapestries to incorporate the designs, with each panel centered by a large medallion and four subsidiary medallions contained within trompe-l'oeuil frame borders interspersed with pastoral trophies. The borders, or alentours, were woven with gardening trophies at either side of an azure blue panel, suspended from lion masks and garlanded with summer flowers, all contained within outer narrow trompe l'oeuil frame borders.
For this personal commission the Regent enlisted the haute lisse workshops of Jean Jans fils (1668-1723) and Jean Le Febvre fils (1699-1736) outside the official work of the Gobelins manufactory. The fact that the Regent ordered a private commission from the factory, unrecorded in the official records, was quite unusual. Once completed the tapestries were destined for the Palais-Royal, the seat of the House of Orléans and formerly the residence of Cardinal Richelieu, where the Regent had set up the administration of the government while the Dauphin resided at the nearby Tuileries Palace. After Philippe's death at Versailles in 1723, the weavings came into the possession of his widow, the Duchesse d'Orléans. They were first recorded in the 1755 inventory of the papers and registers of Monsieur Chastellain, Inspecteur de la Manufacture des Gobelins: Différents traits et mesurage d'ancienne tenture de tapisserie as "Daphnis et Chloé, fait pour M. le Duc d'Orléans, et d'après ses tableaux". In 1785 they were in the depot of the Garde Meuble du Palais-Royal. They appeared at auction in Paris on May 15, 1884, and Maurice Fenaille published them in 1903 as in the possession of Jules Lowengard in Paris.
The Regent's original paintings were incorporated in the boiseries of the Château de Bagnolet. The inventories made after his son's death in 1752 provide further details about the placement of the paintings in the Château (Fenaille, pp. 284-286). In 1786 the paintings were still in Bagnolet, and during the Revolution they were moved to the Château de Meudon where they were in the possession of the Marquis d'Aligre.
The subjects of these four panels include:
(a) Les Naissances (The Birth of Daphnis and Chloé): The smaller medallions representing Daphnis and Chloé rescuing Dorcon from their dogs; Chloé hanging up Daphnis' clothes while he bathes in the river; the bath of Chloé in the Nymph Grotto and Chloé saving Daphnis by the sound of her flute; the main panel surmounted by a medallion of a bird trap and at the bottom-a stag at bay with hounds.
(b) Les Vendages (The Grape Harvest): The smaller panels representing Love appearing to Philetas in his garden; a battle scene; Daphnis admiring the sleeping Chloé and Chloé carried off by the soldiers of Methine; the top and bottom borders repeating the design of the previous tapestry.
(c) Daphnis et les Chèvres (The shepherd Daphnis calling his goats by the sound of his flute): The smaller panels with the return of Chloé; the childhood of Daphnis and Chloé; their betrothal and Daphnis seeking the means of seeing Chloé; the main panel surmounted by a smaller medallion containing a beehive and the bottom border with a wild boar at bay.
(d) Les Noces (The Marriage of Daphnis and Chloé): The smaller medallions representing Daphnis expressing his gratitude to Gnaton; Gnaton granting his pardon to Daphnis and Chloé; Chloé's regret at being surprised by Lapes and Chloé's feast of thanksgiving; the top and bottom borders almost identical to those in the previous tapestry.
This unique set of tapestries, commissioned by and for the reigning monarch of France, are in an exceedingly rare class of objects; they are especially remarkable for the fact that they are of his own designs.
Wool and silk
10 ft. 7 in. by 8 ft. 7in., 10 ft. 7 in. by 8 ft. 8 in., 10 ft. 7 in. by 8 ft. 7 in., and 10 ft. 7in. by 8 ft. 7 in. 323 by 262 cm.; 323 by 264 cm.; 323 by 262 cm.; 323 by 262 cm.
Maurice Fenaille, État général des tapisseries de la Manufacture des Gobelins depuis son origine jusqu' à nos jours, 1600-1900, Paris, 1904, vol. 3, pp. 283-292
H. Göbel, Wandteppiche, Leipzig, 1928, part II, vol. I, p. 174, and part II; vol. II, pl. 160
Philippe II, Duc d'Orléans
By inheritance to the Duchesse d'Orléans, Françoise Marie de Bourbon, 1723
Garde Meuble du Palais-Royal, noted in depot inventory, 1785
Sold Hôtel Drouot, Paris, May 15, 1884
Jules Lowengard, Paris, by 1900
by whom sold, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, June 10, 1910, lots 18-21
Mrs. Gaby Salomon, sold Sotheby's London, November 12, 1965, lot 24
C. Nossent, acquired from the above