Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Panthers of Bacchus Eating Grapes

Artist:
Alexandre François Desportes (French, Champigneulle 1661–1743 Paris)
Date:
ca. 1719–20
Medium:
Oil on paper, laid down on card (paste-paper)
Dimensions:
13 5/8 x 6 3/4 in. (34.6 x 17.1 cm)
Classification:
Pastels & Oil Sketches on Paper
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1906
Accession Number:
07.225.287
Not on view
Having first trained with the Flemish animal painter Nicasius Bernaerts (1620–1678), Desportes studied at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. He entered the Académie as an animal painter in 1699. About 1712 he began to design tapestries for the Savonnerie and Gobelins manufactories.

This is a study by Desportes for a six-panel folding Savonnerie tapestry screen, or paravent, which was first woven at the Chaillot workshops in Paris in 1719–20. His various designs proved very popular and were woven throughout the eighteenth century.
Having first trained with the Flemish animal painter Nicasius Bernaerts (1620–1678), Desportes studied at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. He entered the Académie as an animal painter in 1699. About 1712 he began to design tapestries for the Savonnerie and Gobelins manufactories, which often depicted hunting scenes and exotic or indigenous plants and animals. He exhibited still lifes, tapestry cartoons, and decorative paintings at the Salon until the age of eighty-one.

This is a study by Desportes for a panel of a folding Savonnerie tapestry screen, or paravent, which was first woven at the Chaillot workshops in Paris in 1719–20. His various designs proved very popular and were woven throughout the eighteenth century. Each of the six panels depicts a terrace with shrubbery and vines populated by wildlife. Here the panthers of Bacchus, Roman god of wine, eat grapes beneath brightly colored macaws. Other creatures on the screens include pheasants, toucans, and monkeys. At least four complete six-fold screens are recorded, as well as several individual panels. Two designs of roughly the same size for different panels are at Sèvres.

[Katharine Baetjer 2014]
Georges Hoentschel, Paris (until 1906; sold to Morgan); J. Pierpont Morgan, New York (1906)
Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture. "Salvaging the Past: Georges Hoentschel and French Decorative Arts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 3–August 11, 2013, no. 121.

Fernand Engerand. Inventaire des tableaux commandés et achetés par la direction des bâtiments du roi (1709–1792). Paris, 1901, p. 145, records Desportes as having provided to the Savonnerie manufactory designs for paravents in 1719 ["trois tableaux de 6 pieds de haut sur 2 pieds de large, peints sur papier pour paravents . . ."] and two, of unspecified size, of a vulture and a vine arbor; and in 1720, three panels of unspecified size and subject.

Pierre Verlet. "Les paravents de Savonnerie pendant la primière moitié du XVIIIe siècle." L'information d'histoire et d'art no. 3 (May–June 1967), pp. 114–18, identifies the paravents, including a panel with this motif, as after designs by Desportes; cites a description of a panel corresponding to this sketch in the register for 1719–20: "deux autre morceaux faisant quatre feuilles de paravens où il y a une terasse sur quoy sont possé deux tigre mangeans du ressin et un berceau de vigne et un fond ciel au desus duquel il y a deux peroquets bleux et rouge sur fond jaune entouré d'un fond pourpre, les neuf paravens on chacun 1 aune 5/8 de hault sur 1 aune 1 huit de large . . ."; notes that other sketches survive at Sèvres.

baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in Pierre Verlet. The Savonnerie: Its History. The Waddesdon Manor. Fribourg, Switzerland, 1982, pp. 330–40, fig. 210.

Pierre Jacky. "François Desportes, 1661–1743: monographie et catalogue raisonné." PhD diss., Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 1999, vol. 4, pp. 679–80, no. P607.

Charissa Bremer-David in French Art of the Eighteenth Century at The Huntington. Ed. Shelley M. Bennett and Carolyn Sargentson. San Marino, Calif., 2008, pp. 297, 300–301 n. 8.

Katrina London in Salvaging the Past: Georges Hoentschel and French Decorative Arts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide et al. Exh. cat., Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture. New York, 2013, p. 131, no. 121, ill. (color).



Six-fold tapestry screens with this design are in the James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor and the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.
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