Shipwreck (fragment) from a set of five Port Scenes, Aubusson, after a design by Claude Joseph Vernet, c. 1760-1780. In the foreground six men struggle to pull ashore a boat, whilst in the background a galleon with billowing sails is smashed on rocks by the waves. A group of men huddle on a rock by the wrecked ship, and in the distance there is a lighthouse and a castle. There are no borders and the tapestry has been cut from a larger piece.
The five tapestry fragments with ‘Port Scenes’ at Polesden Lacey are all cut down from larger tapestries. The series they belong to enjoyed considerable popularity in the late eighteenth century, and at least thirteen different designs of ports are known. The designs were inspired by prints after the painter Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) and his associate Charles François de la Croix (c. 1700-1782) (de Reyniès 2010, pp. 214-5). Vernet specialised in views of real and imagined seascapes and ports, often in exotic locations. The subjects chosen for the tapestry series range from his views of the Ports of France to views in Italy and generic scenes of sailors and fishermen. The ‘Port Scenes’ tapestries tend to include figures in Oriental dress, reflecting Vernet's romantic association of the quayside with voyages to distant lands. The tapestries were made in the French town of Aubusson in the late eighteenth century. Surviving tapestries from the series vary considerably in quality suggesting that a number of different Aubusson workshops wove the designs, and examples have surfaced with four different signatures. The set was probably in production from the mid 1760s until the end of the eighteenth century. Some examples are dated 1776 and 1777. A list of related tapestries can be found in De Reyniès 2010, pp. 214-5. Further examples include a tapestry dated 1777 was sold by Parke-Bernet, New York, 19 March 1949, lot 736, and a pair of fragments from the series sold at Christie’s, Paris, 22 April 2004, lot 645. At least seven different ‘Port Scenes’ passed through the New York dealers French and Company in the early twentieth century (Getty Photo Archive, nos. 0243243, 0243234, 0243236, 0243242, 0243246, 0184458). (Helen Wyld, 2012)
The bequest of Margaret (Anderson) McEwan, The Hon. Mrs Ronald - later Dame Margaret - Henry Fulke Greville, DBE (1863-1942) from probate records linked with the donation of the property to the National Trust in 1943. This item found on the record for Polesden Lacey Main Staircase, page 36.
Polesden Lacey, the Anderson Collection (The National Trust)
Makers and roles
Aubusson, workshop after Claude-Joseph Vernet (Avignon 1714 – Paris 1789) , designer
Chevalier, Chevalier and Bertrand, 1988: Dominique Chevalier, Pierre Chevalier and Pascal-François Bertrand, Les Tapisseries d'Aubusson et de Felletin 1457-1791, Paris 1988 de Reyniès, 2010: Nicole de Reyniès, 'The French Tapestries', in Guy Delmarcel, Nicole de Reyniès and Wendy Hefford, The Toms Collection Tapestries of the Sixteenth to Nineteenth Centuries, Zürich 2010, pp. 159-231