The Month of June/The Sign of Cancer, from The Grotesque Months

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After a design by Claude III Audran (1658–1734), 1708–09
Woven at the Manufacture Royale des Gobelins
France, Paris

The Month of June/The Sign of Cancer, from The Grotesque Months, c. 1726

Wool and silk, slit and double interlocking tapestry weave
71.5 x 293.7 cm (28 1/8 x 115 5/8 in.)
Bessie Bennett Endowment, 1951.260

This narrow panel and its companion belong to a suite known as The Grotesque Months, which depicts the 12 months of the year and their associated zodiac signs. A Roman deity, centrally positioned within a pergola, personifies each month. June, with the sign of Cancer—a crab—in the oval at the top of the tapestry, shows the messenger god Mercury. Above and below Mercury appear his associated attributes, including his emblematic rooster, and a miniature scene showing an episode from the tale of his sly betrayal and murder of the giant Argus. These tapestries are in the light, open style inspired by Renaissance artists’ rediscovery and reinterpretation of the Classical wall paintings found among the buried ruins of ancient buildings, called grotti, or caves. By the later 17th century, this so-called grotesque style appealed to an elite group of French aristocrats led by Louis, the Grand Dauphin (1682–1712), son and heir of Louis XIV (r. 1715–74).

— Exhibition label, The Divine Art: Four Centuries of European Tapestries, November 1, 2008–January 4, 2009, Regenstein Hall.