‘The Swing’ A Very Fine English 18th Century Pastoral Tapestry
‘The Swing’ A Very Fine English 18th Century Pastoral Tapestry
‘The Swing’ A Very Fine English 18th Century Pastoral Tapestry
‘The Swing’ A Very Fine English 18th Century Pastoral Tapestry
‘The Swing’ A Very Fine English 18th Century Pastoral Tapestry

‘The Swing’ A Very Fine English 18th Century Pastoral Tapestry

c. 1770 England

Offered by Adrian Alan

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‘The Swing’
A Very Fine English 18th Century Pastoral Tapestry
Possibly Soho, London, Circa 1770.

Woven in silks and wools, depicting la fête champêtre, with a group of country folk enjoying an afternoon together in a clearing behind a house.

In the centre of the tapestry a young man guides two women, in rustic dress, on a swing suspended between two trees. To the left foreground a woman plays a game of skittles, her back arching with the weight of the heavy ball as she pulls back to release it towards the skittles, the nine-pins lined up in the central plane of the tapestry. Two men stand on the opposite side watching her efforts, deep in conversation, while another woman reclines under a tree. The stylised picture frame border is decorated with scrolling acanthus-wrapped shell clasps, against a blue outer slip with acanthus and guilloche bands.

The design, although apparently unified, is in fact based on an assemblage of figures taken from different printed sources; designed to appeal to the English taste for eighteenth century Watteauesque painting, and their delight in the earlier relaxed everyday depiction of country life by artists such as David Teniers the younger (16-10-1690).

The paintings of Watteau and Teniers had a profound influence on English tapestry production. Designs by Antoine Watteau and his two principal followers, Jean-Baptiste Pater and Nicolas Lancret were adapted by many of the weavers, often of Flemish origin, with pastoral scenes of the fête galante and the fête champêtre; while the works of David Teniers proved an untiring resource for character and activity.

For example, a pastoral tapestry, also entitled 'The Swing', by William Bradshaw, one of Soho’s most famous tapestry weavers, installed at Ham House circa 1750, includes figures from at least three different sources. The couple swinging are after Jean-Baptiste Pater's 'La Balançoire', the pair in the right foreground are after Antoine Watteau's 'Le Bosquet de Bacchus', engraved by Charles Nicolas Cochin in 1727, and the seated woman and kneeling man in the centre relate to Watteau's 'Assemblée Galante'.

English tapestry production was much less prolific than in the rest of Europe, mainly relying on Flemish weavers, who had made England their home. Surviving examples are therefore comparatively rare and highly sought after.

English tapestries produced in the 18th century are commonly known as Soho tapestries, reflecting the fact that the most prominent makers lived and worked in the Soho area of London. Tapestry weaving in Soho derived ultimately from the workshops established under royal patronage at Mortlake in 1619, which was responsible for tapestry production of unrivalled quality until its demise in 1703.

One cannot fully appreciate the charm of the present tapestry from its photograph alone, the subtle nuances of colour and the liveliness and unstudied approach to its design are echoed in the superb quality of its weaving.
Wyld, 2013 b: Helen Wyld, 'William Bradshaw's Tapestries after Watteau', in Christopher Rowell (ed.), Ham House: 400 Years of Collecting and Patronage, New Haven and London 2013, pp. 325-33.

Ed. Guy Delmarcel, ‘Flemish Tapestry Weavers Abroad’: Emigration and the Founding of Manufactories in Europe : Leuven University Press, 1 Jan 2002.
Height 275.00 cm (108.27 inches)
Width 325.00 cm (127.95 inches)
Stock Code
Adrian Alan

Adrian Alan
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