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Born into one of the most powerful dynasties of working artists, Charles Coypel occupied a unique place between the worlds of painting and performance in eighteenth-century France. Bell explores Coypel’s longest running commission, a series of Gobelins tapestries based on Cervantes’s Don Quixote. The project—the focus of the special exhibition Coypel's Don Quixote Tapestries: Illustrating a Spanish Novel in Eighteenth-Century France (February 25–May 17, 2015)—not only celebrated the novel but also several contemporary stage adaptations, including two by Coypel himself.
Charles Coypel’s paintings of Cervantes’s Don Quixote mark one of the artist’s triumphs. Examining these works and later illustrations of the novel raises unexpected questions about art and how readers understood the book and looked at these pictures, which not only attest to Coypel’s talent but also evoke the culture of the time.
Charles Coypel’s masterpiece—the focus of the special exhibition Coypel’s Don Quixote Tapestries: Illustrating a Spanish Novel in Eighteenth-Century France—is one of many tapestry sets woven in Europe during this period. By locating the knight errant in the pictorial and decorative possibilities of the medium, as well as in the feverish rivalry characterizing the industry, Brosens addresses the basic question, “Why so many?”