• France, Beauvais, 1755
  • Wool and silk
  • Inv. 280

Tapestry ‘La Pipée aux Oiseaux’ from the series ‘Noble Pastorale’

After cartoons by François Boucher (1703–1770)

This tapestry can be considered paradigmatic of the taste for scenes galantes that largely dominated painting and the decorative arts in 18th-century France. Produced at the Beauvais Royal Factory, which was set up in 1664 during the reign of Louis XIV on orders from Colbert, this was the fourth of a six-piece series called ‘Noble Pastorale’. The cartoons were by the French painter François Boucher, whose countless images were a major contribution to the factory’s success. 

This is one of the most attractive compositions produced by this painter, who introduced a new decorative style into French tapestries: the ‘Pastorales’, which were ideal for use in the interior décor of palaces and castles. 

This fundamentally decorative tapestry has an elegant composition showing a group of young people in an open-air setting with trees and ancient ruins as the background. The many different-sized cages depicted throughout the scene and the net on the right, which is meant to catch birds, together form an allegory of the game of love in which the young and elegant ‘shepherdesses’ allow themselves to be conquered by their admirers. 

The tapestry aims to imitate the style of contemporary painting and even has a woven gilded frame around the scene. The upper centre bears the arms of France and Navarre, surmounted by a royal crown and the collars of the orders of Saint-Michel and Saint-Esprit. 

Signed ‘F. Boucher’ and dated 1755, the piece also bears the marks of the tapestry-weaver (A. G. Charron) and the factory in the inscription ‘A. G. C. BEAUVAIS’. 

Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Duveem, at the F. Müller sale, Amsterdam, November 1925.

348 x 588 cm
Goffen 1995

Rona Goffen (ed.), Museums discovered: The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Fort Lauderdale: Woodbine Books, 1995, p. 85.

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