Thursday, March 12, 2015

A "Tapestry Painting"

Chers Amis de L’Ecole du Bon Goût”, In our new shipment at Au Vieux Paris Antiques is a very special type of tapestry which was originally made to be framed and exhibited exactly like an oil painting.

This type of tapestry is always more finely woven than tapestries intended for seat upholstery or those to be hung on the wall. This example is a petite point in silk thread with 324 knots per square inch. So being 27.75” wide by 35” tall, that adds up to 314,685 individual knots! If a skilled weaver could accomplish 2 knots a minute, that would add up to “only” 2,622 hours of work or 328 eight hour days!!!!

Dating from circa 1715, it is right at 300 years old and it is in a miracle state of preservation. The original Régence frame (42.5” H by 35” W) is hand carved and gold leafed oak and is a work of art in itself. (Note following a photo of another tapestry painting depicting a still life hanging in the Grande Galerie of the Musée Louvre has almost exactly the same gold leaf frame.)

The subject is “Susanna and the lecherous voyeurs” from the book of Daniel in the bible. Wikipedia tells us: “As the story goes, a fair Hebrew wife named Susanna was falsely accused by lecherous voyeurs . As she bathes in her garden, having sent her attendants away, two lustful elders secretly observe the lovely Susanna. When she makes her way back to her house, they accost her, threatening to claim that she was meeting a young man in the garden unless she agrees to have sex with them.

She refuses to be blackmailed and is arrested and about to be put to death for promiscuity when a young man named Daniel interrupts the proceedings, shouting that the elders should be questioned to prevent the death of an innocent. After being separated, the two men are questioned about details of what they saw but disagree about the tree under which Susanna supposedly met her lover. In the Greek text, the names of the trees cited by the elders form puns with the sentence given by Daniel. The first says they were under a mastic (ὑπο σχίνον, hupo schinon), and Daniel says that an angel stands ready to cut (σχίσει, schisei) him in two. The second says they were under an evergreen oak tree (ὑπο πρίνον, hupo prinon), and Daniel says that an angel stands ready to saw (πρίσαι, prisai) him in two. The great difference in size between a mastic and an oak makes the elders' lie plain to all the observers. The false accusers are put to death, and virtue triumphs.” (Click here for the full Wikipedia story of Susanna.)

This spicy subject can be found in Greek texts from the 3rd century but was extremely popular from 1470 onwards and was depicted by many major painters through the centuries including Rubens, Van Dyck, Tintoretto, and Rembrandt, to name a few famous ones.

Also available now at Au Vieux Paris is another “framed tapestry painting” depicting the ruins of a Roman aqueduct with a 16th century peasant’s home infilling part of it. This tapestry was woven on a vertical tapestry loom and has 785 knots per square inch which totals 1,154,539 knots in all! It is in wool and though very tightly woven originally, I believe it was “boiled” in water after completion to cause it to shrink and tighten up the weaving even more.

See following, photos of these two tapestries, available here at Au Vieux Paris Antiques, as well as photos of other “tapestry paintings” in some rather “Bon Goût'” locations svp!

Tres cordialement, Robert E. Smith 337.332.2852

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Mes amitiés,
Robert E. Smith   (337) 332-2852

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