This month, Galerie Deroyan proposes to come and admirate an outstanding Brussels tapestry, exceptional by its subject and its history.
Whaling, series of"Grotesques de la couronne", Brussels, Late 16th century, workshop of Cornelis and Jan Mattens, woven in silks and wools, 13’7.3’’ x 18’0.5’, mark of the workshop in the outer slip
Woven by Cornelis and Jan Mattens in the late 16th century, this piece shows in its center a medallion depicting an exceptional scene of whaling. Two smallest medallions shows scenes in greyness : the roman charity on the upper part and Aeneas carrying Anchise in the lower part. On both sides of the central scene two allegories of Music and Poetry are standing in niches. The rest of the tapestry consists in a rich pattern of grotesques with ribbons, vases of flowers, fruits, putti, foliage, etc. The very beautiful and large border has the same decor : vases of flowers, Mars and Venus standing in niches and medallions in the center of lower and upper border.
This tapestry is one of the very few witness of a famous hanging known under the name of Grotesques de la Couronne. A weaving of this series belonged to the collections of Louis XIV and has been destroyed in 1797. The royal set, given by Richelieu to Louis XIII in 1642 included ten pieces, among whiwh was a « Pesche de la baleine ». The royal inventory of 1666 attributes the cartoons at Giulio Romano, but it seems today that it may be mistaken.
According to Jean Vitet, our tapestry matches in every details to the one whiwh one belonged to Louis XIV, except the background, yellow and not red. Five tapestries from that set has been sold in auction during the 20th century. Two of them had the mark of Mattens workshop in Brussels : our tapestry and the one belonged to Comtesse de Xaintrailles.
Jean Vittet et Arnaud Bréjon, La collection de tapisseries de Louis XIV, Dijon, Faton, 2010, cat. 23, reproduit p. 64