French tapestry factories of the 17th and 18th centuries

Tapestry is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, the warp and the weft threads. Each area of colour is built up separately, following a paper or canvas design known as a cartoon. The weft, coloured threads are wound on to bobbins. The popularity of decorative tapestry can be explained by its portability. King and noblemen could roll up and transport tapestries from one residence to another. In churches, they were displaced on special occasions depicting religious scenes. Tapestries were also draped on the walls of castles offering extra insulation during cold months, as well as for decorative display.
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Tapestry from the suite of :Berain Grotesques” (detail) made under the Behagles, c.1700 Image source: "Kronborg - Gobelin 1" by Wolfgang Sauber - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

France and the Low Countries were at the forefront of the tapestry-making during 17th and 18th centuries. Three of the most important factories were Gobelins, Beauvais and Aubusson.

The manufacture des Gobelins was a tapestry factory located in Paris, best known as a royal factory supplying the court of Louis XIV and later monarchs. The Gobelins were a family of dyers who, in the middle of the 15th century, established themselves in the Faubourg Saint-Marcel, on the banks of the river Bievre. The Gobelin factory was taken by Baptise Golbert (Louis XIV's minister of finance) in 1662 and made into a general upholstery factory, in which designs both in tapestry and in all kinds of furniture were executed under the superintendence of the royal painter, Charles Le Brun. Charles le Brun served both as director and chief designer from 1663 until 1690. Under the artistic directorship of Charles Le Brun, Gobelins produced tapestries of unrivalled technical brilliance, the subtle shading of which resembled paintings. 
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Louis XIV visits the Gobelins with Colbert, 15 October 1667. Tapestry from the series, "Histoire du roi" designed by Charles Le Brun and woven between 1667 and 1672.
Image source: "Louis14-H". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 
The Beauvais tapestry manufacture was the second in importance, after the Gobelins tapestry, of French tapestry workshops that were established under the general direction of Jean-Baptise Golbert. Whereas the royal Gobelins manufacture executed tapestries for the royal residences and for ambassadorial gift, the manufacture at Beauvais remained a private enterprise. 
La pêche chinoise, 1742, one of Boucher's chinoiserie designs woven at Beauvais.
Image source: "Boucher-chinoiserie-Besançon" by François Boucher - Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

The Aubusson tapestry manufacture of the 17th and 18th centuries managed to compete with the royal manufacture of Gobelins tapestry and the privileged position of Beauvais tapestry, At Aubusson weavers worked at home on low warp looms rather than at a central location. Unlike Gobelins, this factory catered more for the middle classes, with simpler and coarser tapestries. Motifs were taken from the Bible or mythology, or they depicted verdures. or gardens. As with Flemish and Parisian tapestries of the same time, figures were set against a conventional background of verdure, stylized foliage and vignettes of plants. 
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Aubusson tapestryImage source: "Eole" by Cité tapisserie - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 


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