Coypel’s Don Quixote Tapestries: Illustrating a Spanish Novel in Eighteenth-Century France

Painting of men and women at a ball

Cervantes’s Don Quixote is considered by many to be among the greatest works of fiction ever written. From the publication in 1605 of the first of two volumes (the second followed ten years later, exactly 400 years ago), the novel enjoyed immense popularity. Reprints and translations spread across Europe, with the adventures of the knight Don Quixote and his companion, Sancho Panza, captivating the continental imagination and influencing both the performing and visual arts.

Coypel’s Don Quixote Tapestries: Illustrating a Spanish Novel in Eighteenth-Century France is devoted to a series of tapestries by Charles Coypel (1694−1752), painter to Louis XV, which illustrates twenty-eight of the novel’s most celebrated episodes and woven at the Gobelins Manufactory in Paris. The exhibition includes three Gobelins tapestry panels from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and two Flemish tapestries inspired by Coypel from The Frick Collection, which have not been on view in more than ten years. These are joined by five of Coypel’s original paintings (never before seen in New York), called cartoons (from the Italian cartone), that were used as full-scale preparatory designs for the tapestries, on loan from the Palais Impérial de Compiègne and the Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris. The series is completed by eighteen prints and books from the Hispanic Society of America, New York. An accompanying catalogue explores Coypel’s role in illustrating Don Quixote and the circumstances that made his designs the most renowned pictorial interpretations of the novel. A rich program of lectures, seminars, and salon evenings explores the history of the novel and its influence on print, tapestry, film, ballet, and opera from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. The exhibition is organized by Charlotte Vignon, Curator of Decorative Arts, The Frick Collection, and is made possible by The Florence Gould Foundation with additional support from the Grand Marnier Foundation.


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