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Attributed to Faubourg Saint-Marcel Tapestry Workshop, Paris

The Birth of Diana and Apollo c. 1630

Woven wool tapestry | 325.0 x 401.0 cm (whole object) | RCIN 28104

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  • One panel from a series of six French tapestries depicting the History of Diana, illustrating the birth of Apollo and Diana, in which Latona, grasping a palm and an olive tree, is shown giving birth to twins.

    Six tapestries of the Story of Diana were recorded in the Great Wardrobe in London in 1668 when the yeoman arras worker Francis Poyntz was commissioned to carry out cleaning and repairs. A second set, this time of seven tapestries, was recorded in the inventory made at Holyrood in 1685 following the death of Charles II as 'One sute of fyne Bruxells hingings Containing seven piece wherin is described the history of Diana'. Although the clerk incorrectly described them as 'Bruxells', he was almost certainly referring to the present Diana tapestries that still remain at Holyrood today. This particular set was probably the one purchased from the Edinburgh merchant John Coupar for £90 in December 1668. Although it was over 30 years old by this time, the quality of the weaving, having been done by a leading French manufactory, was evidently recognised. Soon afterwards the tapestries were put up in the chamber of the Lord Treasurer in Parliament House in Edinburgh, but by 1685 they were in store in the palace Wardrobe. It is not known when they were put up at Holyrood, although they were almost certainly in place when Queen Victoria first occupied the palace in 1851. It was probably at this time that the lower border was cut off to fit the wainscoting of the State Rooms.

    This tapestry depicts the goddess Latona, the lover of Jupiter, giving birth to the twins, Diana the goddess of the moon, nature and the hunt, and Apollo, the god of the sun. Seated in the centre amidst lush greenery, Latona grasps a palm and an olive tree, while the infant Diana, the first to be born, helps to deliver her twin. In the background, Latona walks away, holding her two infant children by the hand. This unusual scene is one of a set of six (or possibly seven) that depict the Story of Diana, a popular set of tapestry designs woven in Paris at the manufactory founded in 1607 by the Flemish weavers, Frans van der Plancken of Oudenarde (who became François de la Planche) and his bother-in-law Marc Comans of Antwerp. The designs are attributed to Toussaint Dubreuil (1561–1602) whose sketch of Diana imploring Jupiter is in the Louvre.

    A set of the same series is at the Palacio Real, Madrid.

    Text adapted from Charles II: Art and Power (2017).

    Provenance

    Probably bought in Edinburgh by the merchant John Coupar in 1668 for £90. (See Thomas P. Campbell, Threads of Splendor: Tapestry in the Baroque). Recorded in the Palace of Holyroodhouse inventory of 1685, following the death of Charles II: 'Ane sute of Fyne Bruxells hingings containing seven piece wherein is described the history of Diana'.

  • Medium and techniques

    Woven wool tapestry

    Measurements

    325.0 x 401.0 cm (whole object)

  • Alternative title(s)

    The History of Diana