A Tapestry after Vouet for the Amiens Museum

After Simon Vouet (1590-1649)
Moses Saved from the Waters
Amiens, c. 1640-1650
Wool and silk - 348 x 335 cm
Amiens, Musée de Picardie
Photo : Koller

30/10/13 - Acquisition - Amiens, Musée de Picardie - The Musée de Picardie was the highest bidder at the Koller auction in Zurich on 22 March 2013, paying 38, 400 Swiss Francs (including charges) for this tapestry piece after Simon Vouet which has now joined the collections.
This illustration of Moses Saved from the Waters was woven around 1640-1650 in the workshops at Amiens, identified thanks to the mark "A" topped with a fleur de lys on the right edge of the work. The border, decorated on the left and right sides with medallions showing profiles, putti, flower garlands, shells and architectural scrolls is much narrower at the top and bottom.

Simon Vouet was called back to Paris by the French king who commissioned the famous series of the Old Testament for the Louvre. It was made up of six pieces, representing Abraham Leading Isaac to his Sacrifice, Moses Saved from the Waters, Jephtha’s Daughter, Samson at the Philistines’ Banquet, The Judgement of Solomonand Elisha Receiving Elias’ Coat. The ensemble is known thanks to the engravings made by François Tortebat shortly after the artist’s death. Several preparatory drawings have also been identified, notably a study for one of the followers of the Pharaoh’s daughter. Only two pieces from the original tapestry series are still preserved today, both mentioned in the general inventory of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne [Royal Furniture Collection] set down by Gédéon de Metz between 1663 and 1673 : Moses Saved from the Waters (Louvre) and Jephtha’s Daughter (Mobilier national). Furthermore, this inventory points out that the ensemble had been woven in high warp in the workshops at the Louvre.
The tapestry became so popular however that it was reproduced by various manufacturers, notably the one in Amiens, where the piece just acquired by the Musée de Picardie was in fact made, along with Abraham Leading Isaac to his Sacrifie (Louvre). These two pieces show only a part of the initial composition and focus rather on the figures, cutting out some of the landscape.

The choice of highlighting the persons recalls a work by Charles Poerson, a student of Vouet, who provided models for the tapestry series of The Story of Moses around 1651-1652. We see the same scene of Pharaoh’s daughter discovering the young Moses in his basket [1], following a composition which is similar to the one presented by his master, with notably the group of women whose various attitudes decompose the movements of a body leaning forward, and of course the motif of the column behind them. Poerson centers the composition on the figures, which he endows with a certain monumentality whereas Vouet places more importance on the landscape, at least in his original project.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, mercredi 30 octobre 2013


[1] Today, there are two documented pieces, residing at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna and at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, in the United States.

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