Wall Hanging of the Arsenal: Apollo
This work of art is part of the wall hanging known as the Arsenal made of four pieces composed according to the same pattern: a mythological figure (Apollo, Venus, Juno and Saturn) in the centre under an arcade of olive branches and surrounded by various animals, domestic and wild, exotic or mythical. The 1634 furniture inventory of Sully, in its apartments of the Arsenal mentions a wall hanging of exceptional craftsmanship, as it was embroidered and not woven and went perfectly with the bed and the seats. The four pieces held at the National Renaissance Museum come from that set of seven. In the upper angles there are family shields, emblems and mottos relating to the Sully-Bethune family and their allies. The lower angles are decorated with goldsmithery vases filled with flowers and fruit. The borders are entirely covered with cannon balls, cannons, powder kegs, bunches and bundles of weapons that are the signs of a great artillery master, a title held by Sully at the time. The technique of gold embroidering consists of throwing silk polychrome threads onto a layer of gold so that the gold can be seen through the gaps. It is mostly used by embroiderers for the chasubles of the Church. Its subtlety and magnificence tells us that in the 16th century, Paris held an important place in the art of embroidery. Here, the flat stitching, chain stitching, and whip stitching were applied on white satin for the centre, and green for the borders.
Apollo figures on the displayed piece, with the features of Henry IV, crowned by laurel branches and surrounded with a halo of sunbeams, holding a lyre. On the others Juno appears with the features of Mary of Medici holding a sceptre and accompanied by a peacock, Saturn, possibly evoking Sully, holding her child Jupiter in one hand and in the other the scythe of Time, finally Venus, with the traits of Rachel of Cochefilet (second wife of Sully in 1592), on the sea shell. This iconography glorifies the sponsor, Officer of the Crown, and his devotion to the King of France Henry IV by associating their respective images and those of their spouses with gods of Antiquity.