Seasons and Elements (Air) (set of four)

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

Border probably designed by Jean Lemoyen le Lorrain (1637/38–1709)
Probably made at the Convent of Saint Joseph-de-la-Providence, Paris
Commissioned for Marquise de Montespan (1641–1707)
ca. 1683
French, Paris
Canvas; silk, wool, and metal-thread embroidery in tent stitch (316 stitches per sq. inch, 49 stitches per sq. cm.)
L. 168 x W. 108 in. (426.7 x 274.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1946
Accession Number:
  • Description

    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.

  • Provenance

    Commissioned for Marquise de Montespan ; possibly Comte de Toulouse , Château de Rambouillet ; Louis Philippe, King of France , Palais Royal, Paris (until 1852) ; [ King Louis-Philippe sale, Domaine de Monceaux , January 28, 1852, no. 9 ] ; possibly Comte Sée (until 1887; Comte Sée sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris May 23, 1887, nos. 8–11; sold to B. Martin); Bradley Martin ; Countess of Craven (Cornelia Martin) (until 1922; her sale, Christie's, London, April 25, 1922, nos. 2–5; sold to Cubit); Cubit (from 1922) ; [ French and Co., New York , 1928 ]

  • See also