Description of the work
Documents in the archives would have us believe that the tapestry is based on a (now lost) Holy Family by Titian, yet there is also a clear link with the so-called Holy Family of François I, a painting dated 1518 and now in the Louvre, attributed to Raphael and his assistants. The group depicting the Virgin and Christ Child, the latter supported on a very similar cradle with volutes, and the figure of St. Joseph are identical, while the differences lie in the number of figures on the left, in the presence in the tapestry of a poetically snowbound landscape and in the detail of the partridge at the Virgin’s feet that gives the tapestry its name.
But while the identification of its painted model may leave plenty of room for debate and assessment, as far as its manufacture is concerned the tapestry is known to have been produced in the grand ducal workshop by Pietro Févère and his son Filippo, who completed the work in 1670.
We know that the tapestry formed part of the collections of Vittoria della Rovere, and indeed it is the only example belonging to the Grand Duchess of this kind of tapestry copied from a painting on canvas, a speciality of Pietro Févère as we can see from other examples in the Gallerie degli Uffizi collections.
The tapestry is in moderately poor condition due to its prolonged exposure in an unsuitable environment such as the current premises, on which it is displayed. Restoration would therefore provide the justification for withdrawal from those premises and subsequent storage in the Gallerie’s own facility, with display in the future Tapestry Museum on rotation.
Considerable damage consists of tears and of worn or lost weft, particularly in the areas woven with darker yarns. Also, there is a visible stain in the centre of the light-coloured area of sky.
After appropriate verification and solidity tests have been performed on the colours, it is intended to proceed with a complete restoration, which will consist of the following operations:
Revision of tears;
Aesthetic renovation of damaged wefts and consolidation of the tapestry with local silk supports;
Manufacture and installation of a lining for support and protection.
Once restoration has been completed, the tapestry will be put in storage after first being put on public display, possibly to tie in with the Raphael centenary celebrations in consideration of the above-mentioned connection.
Duration of the restoration
Eight months from assignment of commission
Proposed by Alessandra Griffo, Curator of Furniture, Carriages, Tapestries and Musical Instruments.