History of Tapestries
Tapestry is one of those French traditions which, through the centuries, has made a rich contribution to the beauty of French heritage.
In the Middle Ages (13th and 15th centuries), until the Hundred Years War, the Ile-de-France was the leading producer, with Paris the undoubted capital. Then the war and the systematic plundering of towns sent the tapestry makers fleeing northwards where they founded the Ateliers d’Arras (Arras studios). When Arras was pillaged, they went on towards Flanders which became their new centre.
These tapestry makers, true craftsmen worked in family concerns, wove mythological scenes and later on, medieval scenes, taking their inspirations from the translations of Greek and Latin texts.
Towards the end of the 15th century, the Val de Loire became a popular place for tapestry makers, and it was in this “cradle of French kings” that the most prestigious works were made, now found in museums. This was the period of the “Mille Fleur” tapestry, with rural scenes overflowing with freshness and charm, where gentle ladies, lords and peasantfolk frolic on a background of “bord de Loire” flowerets. Perhaps some of the finest examples are the series of the Lady with the Unicorn tapestries, which hang at the Cluny Museum in Paris.
The Age of Chivalry.
The end of the Middle Ages saw appearance of epic scenes. Kings and princes had tapestries woven of their tournaments, combats, victories and even their hunting parties. This period remains the most prolific for unrivalled masterpieces.
With the Renaissance and the arrival of the Italian artists, tapestry radically changed style. Associating painting and tapestry, Raphael introduced the art of compositions, order, clarity, perspective, décor and the rich borders and arabesques that characterized the highly coloured style of the Renaissance period.
Around 1530 in France, Francois 1 foundered the first royal tapestry factory in Fontainebleau, near Paris. Around 1660 Colbert established the royal factory of Les Gobelins, then Beauvais 4 years later, under the protection of Louis XIV. More than 800 tapestry makers could be seen at the Gobelins in Paris, under the direction of Chares Le Brun, whose idea was to group the artists according to their various talents and tastes. This is why it was not unusual to find panels signed by several different artists.
After the death of Louis XIV, the official formal subjects disappeared to give way to more imaginative subjects. Tapestry weaving became more romantic with beautiful landscapes. This style reach its peak with Boucher.
The French Revolution put a stop to the creative genius of the tapestry makers, but in 1795, Beauvais, Aubusson and Gobelins reopened, and until the 19th century reproduced the designs of great artists of the royal factories.
To-day, although there are more than five centuries between us and the first major works woven by these tapestry makers, we are proud to be able to offer all art lovers, genuine collector’s items to decorate a room, whatever the style or the size of the interior.
These works of art, painstakingly created by these artists are presented in our gallery.