Tapestries: The Story of Psyche

Beauvais Tapestry Manufactory; after cartoons by François Boucher; woven under the direction of Nicolas Besnier
French, Beauvais, about 1741 - 1750
Silk and wool
H: 11 ft. x W: 8 ft. 9 in.

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In the mid-1700s, the French king Louis XV commissioned the renowned Beauvais manufactory to create a series of tapestries illustrating scenes from the story of Psyche. The manufactory turned to artist François Boucher who had already established himself as a tapestry designer. Boucher created preparatory oil sketches of the scenes, known as cartoons, which were used to weave the tapestries at the Beauvais manufactory. The series challenged the art of the weaver to simulate an array of surfaces and textures--from polished marble and mirrors to clouds and trees. The king's order stipulated six scenes, but Boucher prepared only five. The Getty owns four tapestries from the series.

The myth of Cupid and Psyche first appeared in literary form around 150 A.D. Psyche, a beautiful young maiden, aroused the envy of Venus, the goddess of love. Venus was determined to see Psyche spend her days unloved and alone. But Venus's own son, Cupid, fell in love with Psyche. Cupid had Psyche brought to his palace where he visited her only after dark, forbidding her to set eyes on him. But one night Psyche took a lamp and gazed at the sleeping Cupid; he awoke and left her angrily. The abandoned Psyche wandered across the earth seeking her love and performing apparently impossible tasks, set by Venus, before finally winning Cupid back. The myth was extremely popular in the early 1700s and formed the basis for several theatrical productions.

Jean-Baptiste Oudry also assisted with these tapestries.

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