I've blogged before about the use of tapestry at the château Saint-Louis. This post will present a case study drawn from the intendant's palace. Unlike the documents associated with governors-general Philippe and Pierre de Rigaud, those for Intendant Claude-Thomas Dupuy go into specific detail regarding the decorative tapestries that adorned the walls of the intendant's palace before being seized by the state in 1728. Sold at auction to pay off his debts, Dupuy's collection of tapestries included examples from the very best French and Flemish textile manufactures: the Gobelins of Paris, founded in 1662, Beauvais, founded in 1664, and various centers in Flanders such as Bruxelles, a traditional source for fine tapestries. The records also go into detail regarding the subjects depicted, which range from a concert and hunting parties to Biblical scenes. Five Flemish tapestry panels owned by Dupuy depicted the story of Abraham with "figures plus hautes que nature" ("larger than life figures") and "sur les dessins de Jules Romain" ("based on the drawings of Jules Romain").
The note regarding Jules Romain provides the incredible opportunity to seek out the original drawings upon which the palace tapestries were based. Although tapestry subjects were often described in French probate records, few identify the artist responsible for the original artwork. "Jules Romain" is likely Giulio Romano (circa 1499-1546), a Renaissance-era artist who was born and worked in Rome. Dupuy's extensive library included works and music by Italian writers and composers with Frenchified names; it is likely that this practice was applied to an Italian artist like Romano.
A red chalk drawing by Romano exists in the collection of the Getty Museum and depicts the sacrifice of Isaac. An engraved version of the same image is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Depicting the dramatic moment where Abraham nearly sacrificed his only son after being called to it by God, it is impossible for this scene to not have been included among the five panels of Dupuy's Abraham tapestries at the intendant's palace. Romano is known to have designed tapestries in his lifetime, and sent drawings of potential subjects to Flanders. I have yet to find how long his drawings served as inspiration to Flemish weavers, which could help determine whether Dupuy's tapestries were "antique" examples from the sixteenth century, or were later iterations of his work dating to the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries.
I haven't found other examples of Romano's history of Abraham, but this is a step in the right direction! Tapestry versions of his work that survive include scenes from Classical Antiquity, such as the Battle of Zama, created in the 1530s. Unfortunately, a number of known Romano tapestries were destroyed during the French Revolution for their gold and silver threads.
I'll also be checking the official reports of the Dupuy estate sale, held in October of 1730 and continued in June of 1731, to see if the five Abraham tapestries sold and who might have bought them. Five panels of Flemish tapestry lined with a green toile were sold over the course of first sale in 1730; these were acquired by Sieur Claude-Gabriel Walon de Messi, a noble merchant and contrôleur de la maison du roi (in addition to being one of Dupuy's creditors and one of the largest buyers at the auction), for the sum of 3600 livres. An account dating to October of 1736 describes how several Flemish tapestries belonging to Dupuy remained unsold and stored in a garret of the palace. Either of these anecdotes could refer to the Abraham tapestries inspired by Giulio Romano.