I’m in the mood to write about elegant French tapestries. I’ve often read that bloggers struggle with “what shall I write about?” but this really is no problem for us here – we have so many tapestries, each with a tale to tell.
Our Belgian, Italian and French tapestries are naturally very broad-ranging in their styles yet certain fundamental styles play a dominant role. A visit to France quickly reveals the influence of French elegance in tapestry art derived from the 17th and 18th centuries. The chateaux and museums shout out Louis XIV in particular. He commissioned them by the hundred for his royal palaces. I remember being stunned by a long hallway at the chateau at Blois whose walls were filled by wall tapestries showing his palaces. One of these is very popular today:
Louis XIV was even followed into battle by an artist whose job was to depict the king directing his troops. These later became glorious paintings or tapestries … if the king was victorious.
His successor Louis XV may have been less flambuoyant but his patronage of Francois Boucher (1703-70) resulted in a distinctive influential style which will have to await future discussion. In spite of the republican vandalism of the French Revolution tapestries continued as status symbols to future emperors and kings. By then the more efficeient Jacquard loom had been invented. The tapestry below shows that French elegance remained in the 19th century when this was woven in Beauvais. The image shows The Mandolin tapestry in our home above an antique seven legged table (yes, seven legs).
One has to conclude that the French will always have an elegant flair, certainly in Paris. I, for one, am glad of that.
We hope to launch a brand new website for The Tapestry House in the next two or three weeks. So that deals with the post for June. We’ll keep you posted.
Our castles and chateaux tapestries collection includes designs which are consistently popular regardless of trends in interior design. One of our regular customers was complaining last week that “young people” only want “minimalist decor”. I understood what she was saying but it was such an over-simplification. We have two or three photos of 15th century tapestries hung very effectively in stark modern settings.
Verdure au Chateau – Royal Palace tapestry
The 17th century reign of Louis XIV saw many majestic royal palaces built, adding to past royal chateaux like the Chateau of Chambord with its 400+ rooms and the chateau at Blois (my favourite) with over 550 rooms including a wonderful long hall lined with tapestries of royal chateaux. The Sun Kings self-promotion was partly expressed in tapestry art woven at the Gobelins tapestry factory (Manufacture des Gobelins) in Paris.
Our most popular chateau tapestry is Verdure au Chateau also known as the Royal Palace. As well as the square version (see left) there are four sizes of more popular horizontal formats. These are woven in France by a long-established weaver who uses a wool and cotton combination which works really well for these fine tapestries: the wool gives fullness and depth and the cotton provides good detailing qualities. Below is the longest such size, here of the Chateau Bellevue built for Madame de Pompadour, Louis XIVs mistress.
Chateau Bellevue tapestry
You can still tour Les Gobelins factory and see tapestries being woven for the French government but they will not be traditional tapestry wallhangings like the Louis XIV chateaux tapestries, now they are modern abstract designs. So it seems there is a place today for both traditional and contemporary tapestries.