• France, Aubusson, 18th century 
  • Wool and silk 
  • Inv. 32 C
  • Decorative Arts

Tapestry “The Unfortunate Fisherman”

Jean Pillement

France, Aubusson, 18th century 

This exotic rectangular composition is partially framed by garlands of flowers and ribbons above and on the sides. An Oriental-looking fisherman holding a sort of bag-shaped fishing-net appears against the saffron yellow ground. The figure, under a hanging, is sitting on a wooden structure set in an imaginative polychrome composition of tree trunks, leaves and flowers. A large vase with plants and flowers appears next to him. The lower part of the tapestry shows, next to a stream, an enormous cornucopia-shaped fountain full of leaves and flowers and with a fantastical beast (a dragon) alongside.

This small wool and silk tapestry was produced at the Aubusson workshop after designs by Jean Pillement, a painter of genres and landscapes who also produced watercolours and engravings. Like the remaining six from this series, which also belong to the Calouste Gulbenkian Collection, this was part of a set of chinoiseries, a subject that was fashionable throughout the eighteenth century and very characteristic of the artist’s decorative paintings.

The tapestries in this series all deal with themes that involve dancing, hunting and fishing. The human figures, almost always Oriental, are framed by garlands of flowers, bushes, pagodas and a wide range of animal species, such as fish, birds, dragons, etc.

These pieces were probably produced after a series of twelve compositions of “Fishermen and Hunters” by Jean Pillement, engraved in 1771 by J. J. Avril. Calouste Gulbenkian acquired them in Paris in 1919.


Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian in Paris, on May 15th, 1919.

H. 169 cm; W. 135 cm 

Gordon-Smith 2000

Maria Gordon-Smith – “The Influence of Jean Pillement on French and English Decorative Arts, Part Two: Representative Fields of Influence”, in: artibus et historiae, no. 41 (XXI), Vienna – Cracow, 2000, p. 119-163, (p. 145, colourpl. 59)