In January 2018, the V&A Museum purchased a remarkable French embroidery during the 63rd edition of the BRAFA (Brussels). The piece was bought from the stand of the Royal Manufacturers De Wit, one of the world’s oldest tapestry houses.

Wool and Silk Embroidery on Canvas (17th century) Bacchus Triumphant (17th century). Wool and Silk Embroidery on Canvas. Courtesy De Wit Fine Tapestries

Impressive in its dimensions (4.4 × 2.7 m), the wool-and-silk embroidery is one of a series of eight pieces ordered by the Marquise de Montespan in around 1683 from Saint Joseph convent.

Victoria and Albert Museum Victoria and Albert Museum. ARR

It was in this convent that the Sun King’s mistress found refuge following her disgrace at court when the scandalous Affair of the Poisons (1682) broke out. At the time, the embroidery workshop at Saint Joseph convent was one of the most reputed in France.

By commissioning this series, the Sun King’s mistress sought to reaffirm her personal links with the king – a grand intention that explains the choice of iconography. Indeed, the series represents the king, the Marquise herself and six of their children as allegorical figures of seasons or elements of nature.

Victoria and Albert Museum Victoria and Albert Museum. ARR

The piece picked up by the V&A Museum, titled Bacchus Triumphant, represents Louis César de Bourbon, the Count of Vexin, Louis XIV’s second son. It is the second item from the series to be acquired by the museum. Today, four other pieces are conserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Fodder for a future exhibition, one might speculate…

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