My friend Eleanor Schapa recently posted a commemoration of the Sun King’s birthday (Sept 5th) on her Face Book page; I am ashamed to say I had forgotten.
I will attempt to make amends.
Louis XIV , aged 14, in the role of Apollo, the Celestial Sovereign.
A role young Louis would cultivate throughout his lifetime.
In celebrating the Sun King’s birth, my friend Eleanor, a maven of the decorative arts, listed many of Louis’s attributes. Amongst the many contributions she made mention of the Gobelins tapestries, in particular the Chinoiserie series. Ordinarily Eleanor and I are in complete agreement, but she found them to be unattractive.
I felt a need to re-examine them.
I am NOT a maven concerning anything frankly. I have a broad range of interest and have been familiar with “The Emperor of China” series for some time. From my brief research they seemed to have been of Beauvais manufacture, Gobelins being solely royal production. I’m guessing they were part of Louis frenzied effort to sell the Franco “brand”.
I must say, I still find them exciting and quite beautiful, sorry Eleanor.
from the “The Story of the Emperor of China”
after design by Guy-Louis Vernansel
wool, silk, gilt
Art Institute of Chicago
I have always admired the decidedly Western dragons, indifferent to Chinese conventions.
Another example from the “Historie du Roi de Chine “series, further explores the mystery of Cathay.
from “il historie du roi de Chine”
after designs by Jean -Baptiste Belin de Fontenay
Manufactured by Beauvais 18th cent.
How the hell do you not love that peacock?
Again that very Western dragon, like Brighton Pavilion.
Of course you can’t speak of Louis’s patronage without mention of the great Jean Bérain; his seemingly inexhaustible imagination created some of the most enchanting grotesquerie ever.
design by Jean Bérain the Elder
Louis XIV achieved his goal in creating a seemingly eternal desire for French goods.
This tapestry, ca. 1770, is as desirable as it was in the century in which it was designed, as in the century when it was manufactured (1770), and today.
Fashion that is truly timeless.
from the “Portieries of the Gods”
(love that name, as if Olympus had a private decorator)
after designs by Claude Audran le Jeun
ca. 1770 Gobelins
Of course my friend Eleanor had a point, when it comes to Chinoiserie; at it’s most graceful, few could compete with Boucher.
Le Tenture Chinois
(Chinois Wall Hangings)
after designs by Francois Boucher
Louis XV’s Beauvais , 1758
All in all, I think Louis XIV’s take on Chinoiserie is typical of most of the Baroque under his direction. It all appears to be reflect his own splendor, the Chinois series merely a way for Louis to play act the role of an Absolute Mandarin.
Louis did narcissism well.
Happy Birthday your Majesty!
d. September 1st 1715
Dieu Sauve le Roi,
Dieu Sauve le Roi,
Dieu Sauve le Roi!