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Tapestry
  • Tapestry
    Troy, Jean-François de, born 1679 - died 1752
  • Enlarge image

Tapestry

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (woven)

  • Date:

    1761 (woven)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Troy, Jean-François de, born 1679 - died 1752 (designer)
    Audran, Michel, born 1701 - died 1771 (maker)
    Gobelins (manufacturer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tapestry woven in wool and silk

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with the assistance of The Art Fund, the Murray Bequest and the Vallentin Bequest

  • Museum number:

    T.5-1951

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The mythological story of Jason is synonymous with adventure and great feats of heroism. This tapestry belongs to a cycle of seven works relating the story of Jason's voyage with the Argonauts; their quest to capture the golden fleece, and their subsequent return to Greece. Particular emphasis is placed on one aspect of the story that is seldom explored: Jason and Medea.The cycle was woven in the celebrated Gobelins workshop to cartoons by François de Troy.

The fourth tapestry in the cycle, this scene illustrates the culmination of all Jason's efforts throughout his perilous journey: the capture of the golden fleece. Jason reaches up to cut the fleece down from an oak tree. At his feet lies the scaled beast that guarded the fleece, now fast asleep, under the spell of Medea's song.

De Troy has assigned Medea a secondary position in this tapestry, despite the integral role she played in the actual capture of the fleece. The princess stands to the left, supported by her attendants, looking on approvingly as Jason procures the fleece, not annointing the beast with magic salves, as she is related to have done by the poet Apollonius of Rhodes in The Voyage of Argo. Throughout the cycle de Troy depicts Medea as austere and aloof. This was no doubt to ascribe her the regal qualities expected of a princess but also to render her the foil to Jason's dynamism.

To the left we glimpse the masts of the Argonauts' waiting ship, preparing to depart for the return journey to Greece.

Physical description

Under Medea's approving gaze, a triumphant Jason cuts down the golden fleece, one foot resting on the sleeping dragon, which is under Medea's spell. Behind Medea are the masts of the Argonauts' waiting ship, preparing for the return journey to Greece.

Place of Origin

Paris (woven)

Date

1761 (woven)

Artist/maker

Troy, Jean-François de, born 1679 - died 1752 (designer)
Audran, Michel, born 1701 - died 1771 (maker)
Gobelins (manufacturer)

Materials and Techniques

Tapestry woven in wool and silk

Marks and inscriptions

Inscription in the cartouche:

"Jason assoupit le dragon enlève la toison d'or et part avec Médée."

Signed and dated:

"De Troy à Rome 1745."

Signed and dated:

"Audran 1761" (AUDRAN G.E. (with fleur-de-lys) 1761."

Dimensions

Length: 14.083 ft, Width: 17.166 ft, Weight: 52 kg

Object history note

Purchased as a complete cycle of seven tapestries (T.2 - T.8-1951) from the Wednesday 2 December 1950 sale at Christie's, London. Forming lot 322, the tapestries were consigned by the 2nd Baroness Burton, Nellie Lisa Melles. Their remarkable provenance was related in the sale catalogue as follows:

'In 1787 these seven tapestries were given by the State to the Comte de Vergennes, Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1774, on the occasion of the successful completion of a commercial treaty with England. The set was, between the years 1800 and 1820, purchased by William Murray who succeeded in 1796 as 3rd Earl of Mansfield of Caen Wood, Co. Middx. The set probably hung at his house of Caen Wood, now know as Kenwood, until its sale about 1870 by William David Murray, 4th Earl in 1840, to Mr. Michael Thomas Bass, father of the 1st Lord Burton.'

Once purchased, it was Sir Leigh Ashton's intention that the tapestries "would be utilised to form a background to the Jones collection which has hitherto had to exist in the rather chaste splendour of a bare gallery; but, equally, if the Fund are prepared to contribute and wished, for instance, to present part of the set to Ken Wood(sic), where they were originally hung, this would, I think, be worth considering.". It was Lady Burton's wish that the tapestries should at some point be shown at Kenwood, but Ashton felt the museum should have 'one great complete set of Gobelins'. (MA/1/C1401/7)

According to Fenaille, eleven cycles and several individual scenes (79 tapestries in total) were woven at the Gobelins. This does not include the cycles that constituted private commissions for the royal palaces and diplomatic gifts for foreign dignitaries. Though it was expected that tapestry cycles would be re-woven, as and when required, the popularity of de Troy's story of Jason cycle was clearly such that it led Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre, director of the Gobelins in 1783, to remark that the subject had been 'done to death' (letter dated 11 February 1783, cited in Leribault, 2002, p.104).

The painted sketch for the cartoon of this tapestry is in the National Gallery, London.

The cartoon itself is in the Musée des Augustins, Toulouse.

The same tapestry (from one of the other woven sets) is in the collection of the Musée Calvet, Avignon. There is another in the Hermitage, dated 1784 and signed by Cozette.

Historical context note

See T.2-1951.

Descriptive line

wool and silk, 1761, French; The story of Jason: Jason captures the golden fleece, Gobelins; Audran, De Troy, 1745.

Materials

Wool; Silk

Techniques

Tapestry

Subjects depicted

Golden Fleece

Categories

Tapestry; Myths & Legends

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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