Seasons and Elements (Air) (set of four)

Designer: Attributed to Charles Le Brun (French, Paris 1619–1690 Paris)

Designer: Border probably designed by Jean Lemoyen le Lorrain (1637/38–1709)

Manufactory: Probably made at the Convent of Saint Joseph-de-la-Providence, Paris

Patron: Commissioned for Marquise de Montespan (1641–1707)

Date: ca. 1683

Culture: French, Paris

Medium: Canvas; silk, wool, and metal-thread embroidery in tent stitch (316 stitches per sq. inch, 49 stitches per sq. cm.)

Dimensions: L. 168 x W. 108 in. (426.7 x 274.3 cm)

Classification: Textiles-Embroidered

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1946

Accession Number: 46.43.4


Reflecting the grandeur of the official court style of Charles Le Brun (1619–1690), named "premier peintre" by Louis XIV in 1662, the impressive program of Elements and Seasons is made more personal by having the king, the marquise de Montespan, and six of their children take the roles of the central figures. The complete set, of which four hangings are in the Metropolitan Museum, may be identical to wall decorations in "tapisserie de petit point" that decorated the king's apartment at the Château de Rambouillet. Here, the monarch is shown as Jupiter, seated on an eagle and holding thunderbolts and a Medusa-headed shield. Also meant to personify Air, the figure is surrounded by winged creatures—parrots, raptors (including a hooded falcon), songbirds, and butterflies—as well as wind instruments. Commissioned by the marquise de Montespan (1641–1707), the hangings were probably embroidered at the Parisian convent of Saint-Joseph-de-la-Providence, which also executed other royal projects, including furnishings for Versailles. One of the marquise's favorite charities—she was named a director in 1681 and retired there ten years later—the convent provided needlework vocational training for orphan girls.