Category Archives: Featured Tapestry

La Musique

from the series Grotesques de Berain

Beauvais, 1690

Coloured wools and silks

22 warp threads to the inch

6ft7 x 8ft10 (2.01 x 2.69m)

La Musique lower central section detail

La Musique
lower central section


Although the famous series –of which this tapestry is a part — has been known as Grotesques de Berain, the flowers were actually the work of the flower painter Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1636-1699).  It is certainly possible that Berain’s work inspired the series of cartoon or that he may have provided preliminary sketches.  The designs were certainly completed in by 1689 as, in that year, several pieces from the series were used as security for a loan by Beagle, the director of Beauvais.  It is also known that Monnoyer left for England in 1690.


The present tapestry is signed by the director of Beauvais, Philippe Behagle.  Born in Audenarde in 1641, he was trained at Gobelins and subsequently worked at several factories outside Paris. In 1677, he was appointed manager of the workshops at Tournai and within six years he was to be asked by Colbert to reorganise Beauvais and to succeed Louis Hinart.  Beagle became director of Beauvais in 1684.

He immediately commissioned important new designs and opened a showroom i Paris for the sale of tapestries.  It is from this period that the famous series began to be produced and sold.  Of the twenty or so new series, the Grotesques were the most successful and important and were still being ordered long after Beagle’s death in 1705.

La Musique Director's mark detail

La Musique
Director’s mark



La Musique Urn of flowers detail

La Musique
Urn of flowers

The design is comprises an architectural screen standing against a tobacco a tobacco background and above which are suspended ribbons, flowers and quivers of arrows.  Draped over the screen is a huge curtained edged with tassels.  Standing below is a figure playing the flute; beneath a small canopy at his side is a table covered with musical instruments at which sits a second figure playing a small guitar or mandolin.  They are flanked by large urns brimming with flowers.


The border, designed by Berain, has red bastions rompus on a blue ground with large shield shaped cartouches with shells in the centre and in each corner.

The significance of the series of designs should not be underestimated.  One write has commented that, in contrast with the style of Le Brun and the Gobelins, they announced the art of the eighteenth century.  It is certain that they enjoyed great success and over one hundred and fifty examples have been recorded with adaptations and copies being produced at Aubusson and Berlin.

Related Tapestries

The set of which this tapestry is part has now been dispersed.   One panel was given by Mrs John Mackay to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in 1909 and is published in the Catalogue of Tapestries, AF Kendrick, no 46, 1924.  A further tapestry from this set is in the Museo Lazaro Galliano, Madrid.  The remaining six tapestries, which are The MusiciansThe Feast of Pan, The Dancing Piper The ElephantThe Slack Rope and The Feast of Bacchus, were published in a privately printed catalogue by Leland Hunter.  Hunter also chose to publish the present tapestry in his book The Practical Book of Tapestries.  Only two of the set are signed and it is known that four of the tapestries were sold at auction in 1939.

A number of other versions of The Musicians are known.  One with the bastions rompus border signed Beagle which must be from another set, is at Kronberg Castle, Denmark.  Further examples with more usual borders are known: one example with Chinoiserie border, in the Schloss Bruchsal, Baden is published in French Tapestry by Weight (pl LV). A further panel in the Archbishop’s Palace, Aix is published in Wandteppiche by Göbel (pl 209).


It should be made clear that the patron of this tapestry is by no means certain.  However, a collection of correspondence between Daniel Cronström in Paris and Nicodemus Tessin in Stockholm between 1693 and 1718 (published 1964), which deals in considerable detail with specifications for a set of Beauvais tapestries ordered for Carl Piper, the Swedish Chancellor, could well refer to the Mackay set of which the present tapestry formed a part.

Before ordering the set, Cronström wrote in 1695: Je vous conseille absolument de ne pas laisser passer la Grotesques de Beauvais. C’est assurément une chose singulière pour son prix et digne d’un homme de votre goût.  His advice was evidently accepted and a room plan subsequently sent to Paris.  It was decided that 16 aunes or 64 feet of tapestry was needed and furthermore that the panels would need to be two thirds of the height of the usual cartoons.  Cronstrôm, in a letter, describes that he had selected a border different from the usual floral border recommended: Je fais mettre à la grotesques, une bordeure d’un goust grotesque du dessein de Berain., à bastions rompus rouges sur un fond bleu.

The fact that the Mackay set is the only known set of Beauvais Grotesques with the Berain border under nine feet in height makes it possible, if not likely, that this was the set woven for Piper.

The ownership of the set prior to this century has bot been possible to establish.  The present panel was sold from the Mackay Collection to Countess Bessenyer from whose collection it was acquired.

The tapestry is now in the collection of the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester (Accession No: T.1986.28)


Badin  La Manufacture de tapisseries de Beauvais depuis ses origines jusqu’à nos jours. Avertissement par Jules Guiffrey.  (Paris, Société de Propagation du Livre d’art 1909).

Campbell Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendour (Yale University Press 2011)

Coural La Manufacture Royale de Beauvais (Monuments Historiques Revue 1977)

Göbel   Wandteppiche. Part II. (Leipzig 1933/4)

Kendrick Catalogue of Tapestries: Victoria and Albert Museum. (London 1925)

Leland Hunter Tapestries of Clarence H Mackay. (New York 1925)

Leland Hunter   The Practical Book of Tapestries. (Philadelphia 1925)

Standee Some Beauvais Tapestries related to Berain. (Acts of the Tapestry Symposium, Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco, November 1976)

Weigert   French Tapestry. (London 1962)

La Musique

La Musique
















Le Triomphe de Venus

from the series Les Triomphe des Dieux

Gobelins, first quarter of the 18th century

Coloured wools and silks

28 warp threads to the inch

20ft x 13ft8 (6.09 x 4.17m)

Le Triomphe de Venus from the series Les Triumphs des Dieux Gobelins, first quarter of the 18th century.

Le Triomphe de Venus from the series Les Triumphs des Dieux
© Franses Tapestry Archive.


The cartoons for Les Triomphes des Dieux, one of the greatest Gobelins series, were painted by the court artist Noel Coypel (1628-1707).  He was commissioned to adapt the designs from a series of sixteenth century Brussels tapestries attributed to Giulio Romano, which had been acquired by Louis XIV in 1673 from a sale of the property of the King of Poland.  These tapestries are still conserved in the Mobilier National.  Couple commenced work on this important project in 1684 and the Gobelins account books record regular payments made to him until 1695.  The completed design for the grandest panel, Le Triomphe de Venus, was finally delivered in 1693.


The present tapestry was woven in the haute lisse workshops of Jans the Younger.  Work was started in 1705 and the panel was completed in 1713.  It was the last tapestry from this cartoon to be woven at Gobelins.


The design is composed of three tiers: in the centre of the middle tier stands the goddess Venus before a throne on a twin prowed vessel with pierced sides and furling sales.  She holds a view; at her feet are two putti each offering a dove.  She is flanked by nymphs standing at flaming tripods.  The lower tier is dominated by Neptune, trident in hand, riding his shell chariot drawn by sea horses, surrounded by water centaurs.

Above Venus are piping and dancing putti, some shooting arrows and several birds flying in the brilliant blue sky.

Related Tapestries

The other tapestries in the series of Les Triomphes des Dieux are BacchusApolloMinervaMarsHerculesReligion and Philosophy.  Seven complete sets were woven at Gobelins between 1684 and 1713.

Fenaille traced the whereabouts of earlier Le Triomphe de Venus panels.  These were in the following public collections: Fontainebleau; Musée des Offices, Florence; Colonial Ministry, Paris; French Academy, Rome; Garde-Meuble, Paris.


The set of which the present tapestry formed a part was finally completed in 1714 and was presented to Baron de Sparr, ambassador to Sweden in 1717 by an order signed by Phillipe d’Orléans.

As part of the refurbishment of the embassy, the set was returned in exchange for a set of the Months of Lucas.  These tapestries remained in store and appear in the Gobelins inventories of 1736 and 1740.

They were next lent in January 1741 to the maréchal de Belle-Isle.  The order releasing the tapestries was signed by the doc de Nivernois.  It is recorded that the set was again returned to Gobelins in August 1743.

The set was then lent to the French ambassador in Rome in 1748.  The order signed by M. de Tournehm survives in the French National Archives.

Furthermore, an interesting letter survives from M. de Vandières (marquis de Marigny), giving information on these tapestries at the time os a change of ambassador.

Versailles le 12 mars 1754

À M. Cozette,

Monsieur le duc de Nivernois vous donna, Monsieur un récépissé, le 4 septembre 1748, des tapisseries de Gobelins que le Roy lui resta pour son ambassade de Rome, renvoyez moi ce récépissé que M. le duc de Nivernois demande, ou s’il n’est pas dans vos mains, mandez moy à qui vous l’avez remis, qu’il puisse être rendu a M. le duc de Nivernois, M. l’ambassadeur qui doit le remplacer dans son ambassade donnera un même récépissé si le Roy lui accorde la même grâce.


The tapestries remained in Rome at the Embassy and according to the Gobelins inventories, were the responsibility of the then ambassador, cardinal de Bernis.

It is believed that the set was sold during the revolution as was other property from the Embassy.


Benefit   Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs Dessinateurs et Gravures. (Paris 1966).

Cobban   A History of Modern France. Vol 1. (London 1957).

Darcel   Les Tapisseries Décoratives du Garde-Meuble. Vol II. (Paris).

Fenaille    Etat général des tapisseries de la Manufacture des Gobelins depuis son origine jusqu’à nos jours 1600-1900. Vol II. (Paris 1903).

Göbel   Wandteppiche. Part II. (Leipzig 1933/4).

Leland Hunter   The Practical Book of Tapestries. (Philadelphia 1925).

Weigert   French Tapestry. (London 1962).