The Return of Tobias tapestry
The tapestry entitled The Return of Tobias was created in Aubusson in the 18th century from a cartoon designed in 1715 by Antoine Coypel for the Old Testament tapestry woven by the Gobelins. Born in 1661, Antoine Coypel was a history painter and was appointed king’s painter in 1716.
The tapestry depicts an episode from the Book of Tobias, an apocryphal book of the Old Testament. Accompanied by the archangel Raphael, Tobias returns to his father with a fish gall to cure his blindness.
The scene plays out in an architectural setting of three archways, in front of a background landscape. On the left, Tobit, the blind father, is rising from his chair to welcome the young Tobias accompanied by the archangel Raphael. There are two female characters present in the scene: Anna, the wife of Tobit and mother of Tobias, and possibly Sarah, whom Tobias married during the course of his journey.
The Miraculous Catch of Fish tapestry
The tapestry entitled The Miraculous Catch of Fish was created in the 18th century in Aubusson and was donated to the Sainte-Croix church in 1981 by Clémence Tabard, a descendant of a tapestry making family from Aubusson. It was stolen in 1989, but was subsequently retrieved and reinstalled in the church in 1998.
This art work depicts the story of the miraculous catch as told in the Gospel of Luke. Christ appears to his future disciples at Lake Geneserath where he orders Peter and his companions to let down their nets into the water. They catch a large number of fish, before giving up their work permanently in order to follow Jesus.
To the right of the scene, Christ appears enshrouded by a halo with a majestic demeanour, making a gesture of blessing. The fishers are gathered in a small boat and on the shore, sporting a variety of expressions which convey their awareness of the miracle which is taking place. Peter has his hands clasped together and is about to move towards Jesus, whilst two of his companions express amazement combined with fear.
In the centre, another group of fishers are drawing in nets which are full of fish. To the left of the scene, a man wearing a turban is standing with water up to his calves and attempting to moor the boat with a rope.
The Seven Works of Mercy painting
The Seven Works of Mercy was painted by Jean-Louis Bézard and exhibited at the Salon de 1842 before being donated by the state to the church in Aubusson. Jean-Louis Bézard was originally from Toulouse, studied under Guérin and Picot and won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1829.
This single scene depicts several groups of female characters engaging in the seven charitable acts listed in the Gospel of Matthew:
- feed the hungry (in the middle ground on the right),
- give drink to the thirsty (in the foreground on the right),
- welcome strangers (in the middle ground on the left),
- clothe the naked (in the foreground in the centre),
- visit the sick (in the foreground halfway to the left),
- care for the imprisoned (in the background to the right),
- bury the dead (in the background to the left).
In the centre of the scene, a woman holds out her child towards a statue of the Madonna sheltered by a dais. The characters are depicted in a square surrounded by monuments reminiscent of an Italian town in the Middle Ages, located between the façade of a church and the loggia of a palace. The light is skilfully shared in such a way as to give character to each group, whilst establishing a narrative link between them. To do this, Bézard draws on one of the master works of Caravaggio, which represents the same theme and was created for the Pio Monte della Misericordia church situated in Naples.
Art works conserved in the church
The church of Aubusson houses a number of works of art, specifically two large tapestries and a monumental painting. Identify the display and production conditions of these works with this audio commentary.