This section is from the book "Tapestries; Their Origin, History And Renaissance", by George Leland Hunter. Also available from Amazon: Tapestries; Their Origin, History, And Renaissance.
Plate no. 181. Vertumnus and Pomona, designed for the Gobelins by François Boucher after he became chief inspector there. The picture is interesting to compare with the far superior Vertumnus and Pomona designed by Boucher for Beauvais, and illustrated in color as the frontispiece of this book. The ornamental frame with damassé mat was designed by Tessier.
Gobelin contractors assuring them that Boucher would co-operate with them in every way and that "M. Boucher not only has refused the inspection of the Beauvais Factory with the intention of giving his attention to the Gobelins, but he has even refused an interest that the Beauvais directors wished to give him in their enterprise".
Already Boucher had executed for the Gobelins the Rising of the Sun and the Setting of the Sun, and a series of twenty paintings for Madame de Pompadour's chair coverings. The subjects of the most important ones executed by him after he became chief inspector are, in addition to the three in the Loves of the Gods series named above: Ver-tumnus and Pomona, Aurora and Cephalus, Neptune and Amymone, Venus at the Forge of Vulcan, Venus Leaving the Water, Fishing, the Fortune Teller, Jupiter and Calisto, Psyche Looking at Cupid Asleep, and four that tell the story of Amintas and Sylvia. Like the Don Quixote series of Charles Coypel, these were reproduced small with wide damassé mats between inner and outer woven mouldings. The frames were by Jacques and Tessier.
During the XVIII century the Gobelin contractors executed many portraits in tapestry, for individuals, that did not appear on the official books. The first portrait that appears on the accounts of Au-dran's shop is the life-size, full length one of Louis XV standing, after Louis Michel Vanloo. For weaving that portrait Audran wanted to be paid 10,000 livres, but was obliged to accept 7,252 livres.
Plate no. 183. Two Modern Gobelin tapestries, the Arms of Bordeaux on the left, and the First Civil Marriage in France in 1792, on the right. Both are in the Mairie of Bordeaux for which they were designed by M. Georges Claude, and woven by M. Hocheid artiste tapissier at the Gobelins. The former is signed in the left selvage with the Gobelin mark, the letter G pierced by a broche below R F and above 1899-1003. The latter is signed in the bottom selvage. Both carry the name of the designer inside the border, and deserve the highest praise for excellence of weave and model.
The portrait contained 192 batons (48 bâtons is a square French ell, 16 a Flemish ell), and took 45 weeks to make - 11 weeks for the sleeves and the head containing 9 bâtons, 34 weeks for the remaining 183 bâtons, which is a little less than 2 3/4 bâtons per week for each of the two weavers. The portrait was presented in 1768 by Louis XV to the King of Denmark, together with an Esther set and a set of the New Indies.
Portraits executed in tapestry by Cozette were a bust of Louis XV after Vanloo; of the Queen Marie Leczinska, after Nattier; of the Dauphin (later Louis XVI), after Vanloo; of Marie Antoinette after Drouais; of Joseph II Emperor of Austria, and his Empress Marie Thérése; of Catharine the Great, Empress of Russia. The last is now in the palace of Tsarkoe-Selo and bears Cozette's signature. Of all these portraits, and others, there are numerous duplicates and variants, for portraits of individuals in tapestry seemed to appeal to late XVIII century and XIX century taste. As works of art they do not rank high.
Beginning about 1750, as a result of the influence of Madame de Pompadour, many furniture tapestries - seats and backs for chairs and sofas, and panels for screens - were executed at the Gobelins after models of Tessier, Jacques, and Boucher.
The only new sets originated at the Gobelins during the reign of Louis XVI - the History of Henri IV in six pieces, after François Andre Vincent; the Seasons in four pieces, after Antoine Callet; the History of France in nine pieces, after different painters, were unimportant from the tapestry point of view.
To follow the destinies of the Gobelins during the XIX century and since - would, as is pertinently said by the learned Curator of Art Objects of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance at the Louvre, be both "sad and useless." But while great tapestries are no longer originated at the Gobelins, it must be admitted that upon the existence of the Gobelins in the XIX century, the survival of the art probably depended, and that to the existence of the Gobelins the Renaissance of tapestries is largely due. Personally, I got more at the Gobelins than anywhere else, and am profoundly grateful to every member of the personnel, from M. Guiffrey down, who in 1906 received me so cordially and made me free of the work rooms and the library. I believe it is possible at the Gobelins to revive the art in its pristine vigour, if they will deliberately forsake XVII and XVIII century precedents, and return to XVI century texture and method.