Month of May: Scene of May Day Festival

Month of May: Scene of May Day Festival

1723-1774

Gobelins

(French)

manufacturer

Michel Audran

(French, 1701-1771)

Tapestry weave: linen warp, wool and silk wefts

Overall: 312.4 x 452 cm (123 x 177 15/16 in.)

The Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Collection 1944.133

Description

Seated spectators and splendidly clothed ladies and gentlemen on horseback watch May Day festivities in this tapestry. In the middle distance, archers prepare to shoot at a bush and bird placed atop a maypole, while more spectators congregate in the receding landscape. A border of rolled acanthus leaves and flower garlands frames the scene. This scene is one of twelve so-called Months of Lucas tapestries, each depicting activities that coincide with a month of the year.

The original “Months of Lucas” was a sixteenth-century Flemish tapestry set that was owned by the French monarchy and mistakenly attributed to Lucas van Leyden during the 1600s. To this day, they continue to be known as the “Months of Lucas.” This original set was burned in 1797 so their gold and silver metal threads could be used to replenish the depleted French coffers.

Beginning in the 1600s, the popular Months of Lucas were reproduced in several different versions under various masters at the Gobelins Manufactory in Paris, the famous royal production center for French tapestries since Louis XIV (1638–1715). The lower right hand corner of this tapestry bears the signature of Michel Audran (1701–1771), director of the Gobelins high-warp loom workshop from 1732–71, who produced this tapestry for a private patron in addition to the other royal commissions of the set.

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