Coypel’s "Don Quixote" Tapestries: Illustrating a Spanish Novel in Eighteenth-Century France
A masterpiece of comic fiction, Cervantes’s Don Quixote (fully titled The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha) enjoyed great popularity from the moment it was published, in two volumes, in 1605 and 1615, respectively. Reprints and translations spread across Europe, captivating the continental imagination with the escapades of the knight Don Quixote and his companion, Sancho Panza. The novel’s most celebrated episodes inspired a multitude of paintings, prints, and interiors. Most notably, Charles-Antoine Coypel (1694-1752), painter to Louis XV, created a series of twenty-eight cartoons to be produced by the Gobelins tapestry manufactory in Paris. Twenty-seven were painted between 1714 and 1734, with the last scene realized just before Coypel's death in 1751. In 2015 (the four-hundredth anniversary of the publication of the second volume of Don Quixote), the Frick will bring together a complete series of Coypel's scenes, which will be shown in the Frick’s Oval Room and East Gallery. The exhibition will include the Frick's two large tapestries inspired by Coypel ― which have not been shown for more than ten years ― and twenty-five other eighteenth-century paintings, prints, and tapestries from Coypel's designs.
The accompanying publication will explore Coypel’s role in illustrating Don Quixote and the circumstances of his designs becoming the most renowned pictorial interpretations of the novel. It will also map the production of Coypel's Don Quixote tapestries, from cartoons and engravings to looms in Paris and Brussels. The Frick will offer rich education programs that will include a series of lectures on eighteenth-century French and Flemish tapestries and on the illustration of Don Quixote over the centuries. Further programs will explore the history of the novel and its influence on artists working in a variety of media, including film, ballet, and opera. The exhibition is organized by the Frick’s Associate Curator of Decorative Arts, Charlotte Vignon.
The exhibition is made possible by The Florence Gould Foundation with additional support from the Grand Marnier Foundation.