The immensely popular tapestry series Les Enfants Jardiniers
was conceived by the noted painter Charles le Brun in 1664. This first weaving of the series consisted of eight horizontal scenes of putti engaged in various gardening tasks, and hangs in the Pavillon de l'Aurore in the Parc de Sceaux in Paris. Le Brun later developed the concept into allegories of the four seasons featuring children, rather than putti, tending elaborate gardens and these designs were later used to create another tapestry series of Les Enfants Jardiniers
Jean Baptiste Colbert was Louis XIV's Contrôleur général des finances
until his death in 1683, and is largely credited for keeping the French economy afloat during Louis XIV's indulgent reign. During his tenure, Colbert founded the Manufacture royale de glaces de miroirs
and the Manufacture de Gobelins
to encourage domestic production, as Louis XIV was spending exorbitant sums on glassware from Venice and textiles from Flanders. The Gobelins manufactory was established in 1662, and le Brun served as director and chief designer from 1663 until his death in 1690. Three versions of Les Enfants Jardiniers
were produced while le Brun was director of the Gobelins; they were designed by Séve le Cadet, after le Brun's original concept. Two of these weavings, completed by 1685, were woven by de la Croix and Mozin, and were intended for Colbert, but were taken by the king who used them as diplomatic gifts to foreign ambassadors. The third weaving was woven by Lefebvre. The Gobelins produced both tapestries and furniture for the King until 1694, when it was shut down as a result of the monarchy's financial problems. Operations resumed in 1697, at which time it exclusively produced tapestries, mostly for royal use.
The first royal commission of Les Enfants Jardiniers
was in 1703; this weaving now hangs at Versailles and was composed of six tapestries - Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and an additional, larger version of Spring "Grande piece du Printemps" and a smaller version of the Autumn tapestry "Petite piece de l'Automne". The Gobelins archives list eight different weavings of the Les Enfants Jardiniers
series woven between 1685 and 1720. The present and proceeding lot depict Summer
, and both tapestries are excellent renditions of the theme. Comparable examples include Summer
at the Mobilier National in Paris, which show the same compositions but in reverse.
The commercial success of Les Enfants Jardiniers
persisted into the late 18th century with two eminent French painters, François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard, reimagining the theme on canvas.
M. Fenaille, État général des tapisseries de la Manufacture des Gobelins depuis son origine jusqu'à nos jours, 1600-1900, Paris 1923;
D. Boccara, Les Belles Heures de la Tapisserie, 1971, p. 123-125.