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The Triumph of Alexander

La Marche

Category

Tapestries

Date

circa 1675 - circa 1690

Materials

Tapestry, wool and silk

Measurements

1.98 m (W); 2.27 m (H)

Place of origin

La Marche

Order this image

Collection

Westwood Manor, Wiltshire (Accredited Museum)

NT 222728

Summary

Tapestry, wool and silk, The Triumph of Alexander, La Marche, c. 1675-1690. To the left Alexander stands in a chariot holding a baton, and in the centre a soldier and attendants follow him, one holding a palm branch, symbol of victory. Behind the figures is a stone archway, and there are trees to the right. Along the upper edge of the tapestry there is a border with leaves, flowers and ornament on a brown ground. There are no lower or side borders and the tapestry would once have been considerably wider. There are some cuts and joins at the right hand side.

Full description

‘The Triumph of Alexander’ is the right hand part of a larger composition showing Alexander the Great riding in triumph into Babylon. The original design would have extended further to the left showing a boy riding an elephant which pulls Alexander’s chariot, a soldier on horseback, and a number of other figures. There is an example of the complete design in the National Trust’s collection at Tattershall Castle, no. 579422.2. The tapestry is part of a series of the History of Alexander originally designed by Charles le Brun between 1660 and 1673 for Louis XIV, and woven at the Gobelins. Le Brun painted five full-scale paintings which served as models for the tapestries: ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’, ‘The Triumph of Alexander’, ‘The Battle of Granicus’, ‘The Battle of Arbelles’ and ‘Alexander and Porus’. The compositions were so large that some of them were divided into sections to be woven, making a total of eleven tapestries. The Alexander series was the first major new tapestry commission of Louis XIV’s reign, and the tapestries were designed to compliment the King by comparing his virtues and achievements to those of Alexander the Great (Fénaille 1903-23, vol. 2, pp. 167-185). The success of the ‘Alexander’ series was such that the designs were quickly copied and adapted for weaving at lesser French workshops, including the town of Aubusson, which became a Royal Manufactory in 1665, and nearby Felletin, in the La Marche region of central France. The present tapestry was woven at one of these centres. The La Marche weavings of the ‘Alexander’ series are far coarser in quality than those made for the King at the Gobelins, and the designs are also significantly simplified and altered. They were probably based on engravings of the original series by Gérard Edelinck (1640-1707) and Gérard Audran (1604-1703) published in the 1670s. The cartoons used as models by the weavers were made by François Finet (1636-1706), an Aubusson painter whose inventory of 1690 included six small models for the series (Pérathon 1886, pp. 462-464). The Aubusson and Felletin ‘Alexander’ tapestries were very popular and continued to be woven well into the eighteenth century (Bertrand 1981; Chevalier, Chevalier and Bertrand, 1988, pp. 68-74). There are three further tapestries from the La Marche weavings of the ‘Alexander’ series in the National Trust’s collections: a ‘Triumph of Alexander’ and a ‘Battle of Granicus’ at Tattershall Castle (nos. 579422.1, 2), and a ‘Family of Darius before Alexander’ at Ightham Mote (no. 825685). (Helen Wyld, 2013)

Provenance

Acquired by Edgar Graham Lister (1873-1956) for Westwood Manor, and bequeathed by him with the house to the National Trust

Credit line

Westwood Manor, the Lister Collection (The National Trust)

Makers and roles

La Marche , workshop possibly Aubusson, workshop possibly Felletin, workshop Charles Le Brun (Paris 1619 – Paris 1690), designer François Finet (c. 1636 - 1706), cartoon designer

References

Chevalier, Chevalier and Bertrand, 1988: Dominique Chevalier, Pierre Chevalier and Pascal-François Bertrand, Les Tapisseries d'Aubusson et de Felletin 1457-1791, Paris 1988 Bertrand, 1985: Pascal Bertrand, ‘Tapisseries de l’Histoire d’Alexandre tissées dans les ateliers de la Marche’, Mémoires de la Société des Sciences naturelles et archéologique de la Creuse, vol. XLII (1985), pp. 417-424 Lacrocq 1920 Louis Lacrocq, ‘Chronique des tapisseries anciennes d’Aubusson et de Felletin: 1914-1918’, Bulletin du société archéologique et historique du Limousin, vol. LXVIII (1920), pp. 135-171 Fenaille, 1903-1923: Maurice Fenaille, État général des tapisseries de la Manufacture des Gobelins depuis son origine jusqu’à nos jours, 1600-1900, 4 vols., Paris, 1903-1923 Pérathon 1886 Cyprein Pérathon, Histoire d’Aubusson: La vicomté - la ville - les tapisseries - la maison d’Aubusson, Limoges 1886

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