Tapestry: Narcissus

Tapestry
A millefleurs tapestry, Narcissus
Narcissus at the Well
Narcisse se mirant dans la fontaine

French, Paris
About 1500


Object Place: France or Flanders

Dimensions

Overall: 282 x 311 cm (111 x 122 7/16 in.)

Accession Number

68.114

Medium or Technique

Wool and silk tapestry

Out on Loan

Out On Loan

Collections

Europe, Textiles and Fashion Arts

Classifications

Textiles

This tapestry illustrates the tale of Narcissus, taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The story of Narcissus tells of a beautiful young man whom the gods caused to fall in love with his own reflection as punishment for his cold-hearted rejection of the love of others. Narcissus was a popular subject in the art and poetry associated with the medieval tradition of courtly love. In this tapestry, he is presented as a fashionably-dressed young man gazing at his reflection in the stone fountain set within a beautiful garden filled with birds and small animals.

Provenance

By 1882, in the Château de Rozay in Saint-Georges-sur-la-Prée (near Vierzon), France [see note 1]; between 1909 and 1911, sold by Comte Yvon le Goarz de Toulgoët-Treanna (aka Talgonet) to Jacques Helft and Nathan Wildenstein [see note 2]; by September 1928, with Wildenstein and Company, New York [see note 3]. Before 1968, said to be in collection of Olive, Lady Baillie, Leeds Castle, Maidenstone, Kent [see note 4]. By 1968, with Wildenstein and Company, New York; sold by Wildenstein to the MFA (Accession date: April 10, 1968)

NOTES:
[1] According to a copy of an inventory of the objects in the château in the curatorial file provided by Msr. François de Dreuzy of the Château de Villiers, a descendent of the family who owned the piece in the 19th century. Although undated, this inventory appears to be similar to another inventory completed on January 23 and 24, 1882 at the château.

[2] According to a letter in the curatorial file dated November 19, 1973 from Jacques Helft, Paris. The transaction is also described in Helft's memoir entitled "Vive la Chine! Mémoires d'un Antiquaire," Monaco, Editions du rocher, 1955 where Helft recalls paying Toulgoët-Treanna 1,000,000 francs for the piece.

[3] See Ella S. Siple, "Art in America: French Gothic Tapestries of about 1500," The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 53, No 306 (Sept., 1928), pp. 145-146 where described as "a large millefleurs representing Narcissus at the well," "brought to America recently by Wildenstein and Company" (also pictured). Siple also affirms the provenance of Toulgoët-Treanna, writing "it is said to have been for many years in the possession of Monsieur de Talgonet at the Château de Rozay near Vierzon, some sixty miles from Tours."

[4] According to curatorial recommendation dated April 10, 1968 by Adolph S. Cavallo, Curator of Textiles, on file at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Baille was born Olive Cecilia Paget in the USA in 1899 was educated in France, marrying the Hon. Charles John Frederick Winn in 1919 and divorcing in 1925. That same year, she married Arthur Wilson Filmer and the couple purchased Leeds Castle in 1926. Restoration on the castle began almost immediately and were initially carried out by designer Armand-Albert Rateau. Between 1936 and 1967, Baillie employed Stéphane Boudin to carryout further restorations.

Credit Line

Charles Potter Kling Fund