The story of Don Quixote, based on the highly popular romance novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, served as the basis for one of the Gobelins manufactory's most popular sets of tapestries, woven in nine separate series throughout the 1700s. Although the central scenes showing the escapades of Don Quixote and his companion Sancho remained the same, the surrounding decoration, known as the alentours, changed to reflect current fashions. The Getty Museum's tapestries come from the eighth weaving, which used the newly invented rose- and crimson-colored ground.
The French kings often gave tapestries as diplomatic gifts. On August 20, 1786, Louis XVI presented the Museum's tapestries to his sister-in-law, the duchess of Saxe-Teschen, and her husband the duke, the governors of the Austrian Netherlands (modern Belgium). Unlike many surviving hangings from the 1700s, these four tapestries remain in superb condition. The colors of all four scenes have faded very little overall, and some colors are still strong, particularly the shades of purple in the alentours, which usually fade to gray upon exposure to light.
The surrounds for these tapestries were designed by Jean-Baptiste Belin de Fontenay, fils, Claude Audran III, Alexandre François Desportes, and Maurice Jacques. The tapestries were woven in Michel Audran's workshop, assisted by his son, Jean Audran, fils.