Gazette Drouot logo print

The Valois Tapestries Return to Écouen

Published on , by Armelle Fémelat

These freshly restored Renaissance masterpieces are on display in their entirety at the Château d'Écouen. A first for over four centuries, though experts must still weave their way through a few thorny areas.

The assault of an island on the lake at the Château de Fontainebleau (detail) The Valois Tapestries Return to Écouen
The assault of an island on the lake at the Château de Fontainebleau (detail)
The centerpiece of the first retrospective devoted to the painter Antoine Caron (1521-1599) at the Château d'Écouen , the Valois tapestries were commissioned by Catherine de’ Medici. Woven in Brussels between 1575 and 1578, the eight pieces in the series have not been shown in France for over 430 years. They have been kept at the Uffizi in Florence since they arrived there in 1589 as part of the dowry of Christine de Lorraine-Vaudémont (Catherine de’ Medici's beloved granddaughter) when she married Ferdinand, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Restoration work began in 2015 and was completed in 2021. Woven in wool, silk, gold and silver thread, this impressive set covering 140 m 2 (153 sq. yds) is remarkable in every respect, including its high-quality design, the variety of colors, the refined stitches, use of “crapautage” (weft floats) and other sophisticated weaving techniques. "A dazzling synthesis of the artistic and political issues of Catherine de Medici," says Oriane Beaufils, curator at the Château de Fontainebleau. A synthesis that, unfortunately, is not documented in any archives prior to its description in the dowry of Christine de Lorraine. According to Pascal-François Bertrand, professor of Modern Art History at the University of Bordeaux-Montaigne, "The fascination long exerted by the magnificent Valois Tapestries is heightened by the mystery still partly surrounding their history. It is now accepted that the commission came from Catherine de’ Medici or someone close to her, and that the work was made at the beginning of Henri III’s reign. But who the figures were,…
This article is for subscribers only
You still have 85% left to read.
To discover more, Subscribe
Gazette Drouot logo
Already a subscriber?
Log in