Wall Upholstery History, Part 2

Posted by Eric, May 6th, 2013 in Wall Upholstery

Wall Upholstery History, Part 2

In the early 17th century unfortunately the art of tapestry lost its effervescence all through Europe and lots of “tapissiers” found themselves out of work. By the mid 17th century, King Louis XIV and his administrator Jean Baptiste Colbert, made some effort to revive this industry by the creation of the royal manufacture of Beauvais, Gobelins and Aubusson,  with themes inspired by artists like Watteau, Oudry, Boucher. These Royal tapestry manufactures slowly started producing lighter fabrics which were use for furnishings instead of tapestries.

This is a Louis XVI style settee, upholstered in its original Aubusson tapestry. The upholstery is in a decorative theme of birds, and animals surrounded with foliage and swags.

The tradition of tapestry manufacture once again grew until the revolution in 1789, a period of radical social and political upheaval in France, where its estimated 70% of this patrimony was burnt, stolen or destroyed.  From the revolution to the modern day, the tradition of wall upholstery & tapestries are conveyed from generation to generation, and it is only in the early 20th century that the industry is revived thanks to artists like Jean Lurçat, Dom Robert, Jean Picart Le Doux and more recently Toffoli, Le Guen, Thomas Collet, Jean Louis Dhuit.

Dom Roberts Tapestry (1907 – 1997)

During the late 17th century before the French revolution the use of fabrics made of cotton, wool and silk started to cover walls and furniture.

In 1680 the manufacturer Tassinari & Chatel and in 1752 the manufacturer Prelle in Lyon produced the most prestigious and exclusive fabrics, particularly out of silk using gold and silver otherwise known as brocades, but also damasks, lampas and velvets were produced at the rhythm of 3 centimeters a day.

Italian Lampas

Starting in 1970, these two manufacturers reproduced the most exclusive Lampas, possibly ordered in 1787 by Marie Antoinette, for her bedroom in Fontainebleau. A similar fabric was hung in her salon in Versailles previously. She unfortunately didn’t see Fontainebleaus order finished as her beautiful head had fallen in a basket a few years prior. Her successor Imperatrice Josephine still accepted it and had it hung in the bedroom of the Queens in Fontainebleau in 1805, as it was the most prestigious and rare fabric. By then original fabric had deteriorated beyond repair, It was said that to reproduce the new fabric, it took 8 years of one man’s life to weave as he was the only person left who knew how to operate this original loom. The result is exact and magnificent. The new cloth was hung in 1983 during the restoration of the room, which I was fortunate to work on when learning my craft in Paris under the tutoring of  “Brazet et fils”.

Eric Ahlfors working on Marie Antoinettes Bedroom “Ciel de Lit” 1984

Countless hours of work were also invested in the research, design and hanging by many other people. http://www.amisdefontainebleau.org  http://www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr.

Bedroom of the Queens, Chateau de Fontainebleau.

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