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French (Lyon), 1788

Maison Pernon, one of the leading eighteenth-century silk manufacturers of La Grande Fabrique (the workshops that constituted the industry in Lyon) was renowned for its production of high-end furnishing textiles. In the latter decades of the century, when the firm was managed by father and son, Etienne and Camille Pernon (1753–1808), they received commissions from the Garde Meuble de la Couronne for the royal residences of Versailles, Compiègne and Saint-Cloud. The entrepreneurial Camille Pernon traveled widely and actively sought the patronage of royal and aristocratic foreign clients, especially in Russia and Spain. From 1780, he held the position of Agent de Sa Majesté l’Impératrice de Toutes les Russies. Pernon’s associate in Spain, François Grognard, was instrumental in securing orders from the Spanish monarchy and aristocrats as well as ambassadors to its court. In his correspondence with Pernon, Grognard often emphasized his clients’ eagerness to acquire the most up-to-date French silks. This elegant wall covering in the newest taste was commissioned from Pernon in 1788 through Grognard for the count of Miranda.

Strictly symmetrical, the candelabra composition includes disparate elements unified into a coherent column. At the top, a bowl of fruit with beribboned grape garlands to either side is set on a lion-footed stand; swans perched on scrolling tendrils suspend pendants with the company’s initials from their beaks. In the middle section are tasseled lambrequins over griffin-headed ewers on caduceus staffs and an octagonal medallion enclosing a floral spray tied with a bowknot. At the bottom are confronted butterfly-winged hounds and a circular medallion enclosing a flowering double-handled vase, flanked by birds and hovering butterflies. The restrained yet highly sophisticated design is enhanced by the simplicity of the color scheme and weave structure in brilliant yellow satin with ivory weft patterning. The back of the silk is stamped "10789" at the top and "Grand Frères" at the bottom, with the handwritten number "P.1586." Grand Frères was the successor company to Maison Pernon following the death of Camille Pernon in 1808; the stamp indicates that the panel became part of the new firm's archives.

The overt references to classical antiquity are very much in the style of Jean-Démosthène Dugourc (1749–1825), a celebrated Lyonnais designer and leading exponent of the goût étrusque, which he claimed in his autobiography to have invented. In the 1780s, Dugourc worked closely with Camille Pernon and collaborated on several residential projects for the Spanish monarchy. Dugourc’s treatment of classicizing motifs would become a standard aspect of the design vocabulary and repertoire during the First Empire.

An identical silk in the collection of Maison Tassinari et Chatel, illustrated in Soieries de Lyon: Commandes royales au XVIIIe S. 1730-1800 (1988), cat. 60, is identified as a commission for the count of Miranda in 1788. Another identical example, in ivory on a salmon-pink ground, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (33.140) is attributed to Jean-Démosthène Dugourc and illustrated in Vasemania–Neoclassical Form and Ornament: Selections from the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2004), plate 78.

69” H x 21.5” W

Silk Panel Maison Pernon & Cie., Attributed to Jean-Demosthene Dugourc, French (Lyon), 1788
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