Life at № 42 by E.M. Coutinho
1786. Oil on canvas, 112 x 145 cm.
“Two boys hold two large, muzzled mastiffs by their leads. On the collar of one dog is an incomplete inscription reading “DEL SoR”, which may mean “I am in the Royal Service”. The format of this cartoon suggests that the final tapestry would have hung over a door, forming a pair with Boy riding a Ram,the cartoon for which is in the Art Institute of Chicago.”
Now what I’m going to show you today is a real treat. The picture above is what’s called a tapestry cartoon (carton, in French) and serves as the model after which a tapestry is woven. Goya designed 63 cartoons on commission for Charles III and IVth of Spain. The cartoons themselves are well known as they’re mostly at the Prado in Madrid and some (very few) outside of Spain; but what people almost never get to see are the actual tapestries (except for those who’ve visited El Pardo or Viana Palace in Córdoba). And certainly not up close! In my recent efforts to be more constructive (exhausting, since procrastinating and being mean come so much more naturally!), I decided to make it a personal project to find a Goya tapestry and then convince the Goya museum in Castres to buy it. Particularly because tapestries were so iconic in Goya’s work and the museum has none. No easy task as there’s only one sales record I could find of Goya tapestries from the major auction houses in the past 40 years (Sotheby’s NY 2003). And so here we are, I’ve got two. The detail is extraordinary. Think of tapestries in terms of pixels, the smaller the pixel, the finer the image (the better the curves, the more accurate the shadows) – and of course the smaller that knot, the harder it is to make. Behold:
Did you notice there are two mastiffs and one is looking straight at you? This post is going to go private in the near future, so enjoy while it’s around 🙂
And here’s El Balancín. First the cartoon, then the version at Viana Palace, then the version which will hopefully join the museum collection.
And in case you’re wondering what tapestry knots look like from behind, here’s an example. Each time the colour changes, another thread is woven into the design: