Drawing, Design for Toile de Jouy: La Marchande d'Amours (The Cupid Seller), 1817–18
This is a Drawing. It was designed by Hippolyte Le Bas. It is dated 1817–18 and we acquired it in 2002. Its medium is pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash over traces of graphite on cream laid paper mounted on board. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.
This early 19th-century drawing by the French architect Hippolyte Lebas is a design for a toile de Jouy (a printed textile manufactured by Oberkampf). The design is an outstanding revival of a celebrated neoclassical subject that first received extensive public attention more than 50 years earlier.
Neoclassical depictions of the symbols and mythological stories of love depicted in both the fine and the applied arts were immensely popular with the French nobility and royal circles. At the 1763 Salon in Paris, Joseph-Marie Vien exhibited his painting La Marchande d’Amours (The Cupid Seller). The work immediately received considerable favorable attention, in large part because he had based his composition on a print, published in 1762 in Le Antichità d’Ercolano (The Antiquities of Herculaneum), which documented an important excavation discovery near Naples of an ancient Roman painting of a cupid seller. By classicizing the selling of love to patrician ladies, Vien’s painting further sanctified an erotic subject by linking it directly to a known antiquity.
The motif of the cupid seller inspired numerous artists working in the decorative arts, such as Meissen porcelain and Wedgewood pottery in the 18th and early 19th century. The artist Jacques-Louis David also drew a copy of the Cupid Seller engraving in 1776. In 1816, Lebas, who is better known as an architect than as a designer of textiles, began work renovating the Château du Montcel, the residence of Madame Oberkampf. During this period, she also asked him to design some patterns for printed textiles. La Marchande d’Amours (1817–18) was one of the textiles that resulted. Lebas undertook close examination of various classical sources, including the Cupid Seller, to compose this extraordinary textile design full of exquisite vignettes and ornamentation, which speaks to the enduring power of the classical style and subjects.
Besides its great importance as a stellar example of neoclassical design and iconography, the acquisition of this major drawing is also highly desirable because it relates to two textile fragments in the museum’s collection, each of which show different parts of the pattern (1906-15-5,6). It is exceedingly rare to find drawings for important toile de Jouy textile patterns, and even more rare to find preparatory toile de Jouy textile design drawings of such quality in terms of alluring pictorial interest and fine condition.
In addition to the two textile fragments that relate directly to Lebas’s Cupid Seller design drawing, the museum also holds two exceedingly fine neoclassical preparatory drawings (1815) by Merry-Joseph Blondel for two scenes of the major wallpaper series Amours de Psyche (1816); the wallpaper is also in the museum’s collection. The museum’s capability to further document the pervasive European decorative interest in symbols of love and the Cupid and Psyche story, as exemplified by this magnificent wallpaper series, would be enhanced by the Lebas drawing acquisition.
The museum holds other works related to cotton printing of the era, including a cartoon and trial proof by Jean-Baptiste Huet for the Oberkampf manufactury at Jouy, Le Tombeau de Jean Jacques Rousseau a Ermenonville (1898-21-8,9); and a cartoon, probably by Marie Bonaventure Lebert for Hartmann et Fils in Munster, Les Quatre Saisons (1898-21-6-a,b). These documents yield valuable information for researchers and show patterns in a vignette style with the scene depicted without a framing medallion or lozenge shape. This style, inspired by antique cameos, gemstones, medals, and reliefs, was used by Lebas for ordering the design of the Cupid Seller.
April 20, 2002
It is credited
Museum purchase from Drawings and Prints Council Fund.
Its dimensions are
Image: 54.6 x 92.4 cm (21 1/2 x 36 3/8 in.); mount, 56.2 x 94 (22 1/8 x 37 in.).
Cite this object as
Drawing, Design for Toile de Jouy: La Marchande d'Amours (The Cupid Seller), 1817–18; Designed by Hippolyte Le Bas (1782 – 1867); pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash over traces of graphite on cream laid paper mounted on board; Image: 54.6 x 92.4 cm (21 1/2 x 36 3/8 in.); mount, 56.2 x 94 (22 1/8 x 37 in.).; Museum purchase from Drawings and Prints Council Fund; 2002-5-1