Lot 5517
Home & Interiors: Antique Furniture & Design, Ceramics & Decorative Art | 16 June 2022
A Louis XIV Beauvais grotesque tapestry, 'The Elephant', from the series ‘Les Grotesques’, designed by Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1636-1699)

Ca. 1688-1732, France

Woven in wools and silks, showing a scene with musicians, dancers and a tiger, centred by an elephant, in an architectural setting composed of grotesques based on the designs of Jean Bérain the Elder (1640-1711). It is argued that Bérain may also have played a role in the design of this tapestry series. The grotesque is a particular style of ancient Roman art, a fanciful combination of architectural, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic ornaments as painted on the walls of the Grotte (caves) in Rome, which were actually the basements of Roman ruins of the Domus Aurea complex started by Nero from 64 AD. These ornaments were rediscovered at the end of the fifteenth century and became an integral part in the development of Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque ornament.

This tapestry was produced by the Beauvais Manufactory (Manufacture de Beauvais), which was founded by Louis XIV's minister of finance Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) in 1664, and was led by the marchand-tapissier du roi Philippe Béhagle (1641-1705). The creation of this manufactory aimed to boost French industry, and made France less dependent on Flemish products. Moreover, while the royal Gobelins manufactory in Paris was solely focused on promoting the glory of Louis XIV, Beauvais targeted the private market. Les Grotesques became one of the most popular series of tapestries, and remained in production for over sixty years. The series' six panels each spotlighted a different animal or group: a camel, an elephant, animal tamers, an offering to Priapus, musicians, and a statue of Pan.

The tapestry's designer, Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer, was a French painter who specialised in still lifes of flowers. After a number of successful commissions, such as decorative programs for the Hôtel Lambert and the châteaux of Vincennes, Saint-Cloud and Versailles, Monnoyer started working at the Gobelins and at Beauvais. At the latter manufactory, he collaborated with Bérain.

240x370 cm


  • E. Standen, European Post-Medieval Tapestries and Related Hangings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. II (New York 1985).
  • J. Coural and C. Gastinel-Coural, Beauvais. Manufacture nationale de Tapisserie (Paris 1992).
  • C. Bremer-David, French Tapestries & Textiles in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles 1997).
  • C. Bremer-David, Conundrum, Puzzles in the Grotesques Tapestry Series (Los Angeles 2015).

With traces of wear, such as disconnected threads

€ 30.000,00
€ 50.000,00