Exhibitions/ Art Object

Furniture Depicting the Four Continents: America

Tapestry upholstery by Beauvais
Workshop of de Menou (French, active 1780–93)
After a composition by Jean Jacques François Le Barbier (French, Rouen 1738–1826 Paris)
Commissioned for Louis XVI, King of France (French, Versailles 1754–1793 Paris)
designed ca. 1786, woven 1790–91; settee frame second half 19th century
French, Beauvais
Carved and gilded wood; wool, silk
Overall: 42 1/4 × 75 3/8 × 28 in. (107.3 × 191.5 × 71.1 cm)
Woodwork-Furniture, Textiles-Tapestries
Credit Line:
Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Claus von Bülow Gift, 1978
Accession Number:
Not on view
Louis XVI commissioned the tapestry-woven upholstery for two settees and twelve armchairs (four are displayed in the exhibition) from Beauvais with four related tapestries. The personifications of the continents are set in landscapes on the seat backs, and animals native to each populate the seat covers. This set vividly reflects the late eighteenth-century Gallic worldview. One settee shows America being introduced to Europe by France, who is receiving a crown from Victory. This scene is contrasted with those on the other settee, where Asia and Africa are shown surrounded by the material wealth their lands can offer Europe, including luxurious jewels and textiles from Asia and ivory and Africans (shown in chains) from Africa.
Louis XVI, King of France ; possibly Garde Meuble de la République (delivered to Versailles, February 20, 1793) ; Abraham Alcan (from September 24, 1796) ; Private Collection, France (from May 18, 1852; sold in Paris to de Béarn) ; Prince de Béarn (1852–at least 1886) ; Gaston Menier (purchased in 1893) ; Possibly Private Collection, USA (from 1939 or 1942) ; [ Sotheby's, London , December 13, 1974 ] ; [ Artemis S. A. , in 1975 ] ; [ E. V. Thaw & Co. , 1978; sold to MMA ]
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