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The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image

The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image


The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 120 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 But Louis XIV was a busy man, and Paris presented enough activity to consume all his hours but the scant group he allowed himself for sleep. So Aubusson was forgot. Wars and pleasures both ravaged the royal purse, and no money was left for indulgences to a tapestry factory lying leagues distant from Paris and the satisfying Gobelins. Then came the agitation of religious conflict during which Louis XIV was persuaded, coerced, nagged into the condition of mind which made him put pen to the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the document that is ever playing about the fortunes of tapestry weaving. This was in 1685. Aubusson had struggled along on hope for twenty years, under its epithet Royal, but now it had to lose its best workers to the number of two hundred. The Protestants had ever been among the best workers in Louis’ kingdom, and by his prejudice he lost them. Germany received some of the fugitives, notably, Pierre Mercier. Near Aubusson were Felletin and Bellegarde, the three towns forming the little group of factories of La Marche. When the king’s act brought disaster to Aubusson, her two neighbours suffered equally. There was also another reason for a sagging of prosperity. Beauvais was rapidly gaining in size and importance under the patronage of the king and the wise rule of its administrators. Beauvais with her high- and low-warp looms, her artists from Paris and her privilege to sell in the open market, lured from Aubusson the patronage that might have kept her strong. Thus things went on to the end of the Seventeenth Century and the first quarter of the Eighteenth. Then in 1731 came deliverers in the persons of the painters, Jean Joseph du Mons and Pierre de Montezert, and an able dyer who aided them. Prosperity began anew. Not the prosperity of the first half of the Seventeenth Century, which was its best period, but a strong, healthy productiveness which has lasted ever since. Two articles of faith it adheres to—that the looms shall be invariably low, and that the threads of the warp shall be of wool and wool only. Large quantities of strong-colour verdures from La Marche and notably from Aubusson are offered to the buyer throughout France. They are as easily adapted to the wood panels of a modern dining-room as is stuff by the yard, the pattern being merely a mass of trees divisible almost anywhere. The colour scheme is often worked out in blues instead of greens; a narrow border is on undisturbed pieces, and the reverse of the tapestry is as full of loose threads as the back of a cashmere rug. For the most part these fragments are the work of the Eighteenth Century. Older ones, with warmer colours introduced bring much higher prices. T CHAPTER XVI SAVONNERIE HOSE who hold by the letter, leave out the velvety product of La Savonnerie from the aristocratic society of hangings woven in the classic stitch of the Gobelins. They have reason. Yet, because the weave is one we often see in galleries, also on furniture both old and new, it is as well not to ignore its productions

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 121 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 in lofty silence. Besides, it is rather interesting, this little branch of an exotic industry that tried to run along beside the greater and more artistic. It never has tried to be much higher than a man’s feet, has been content for the most part to soften and brighten floors that before its coming were left in the cold bareness of tile or parquet. It crept up to the backs and seats of chairs, and into panelled screens a little later on, but never has it had much vogue on the walls. When we go back to its beginnings we come flat against the Far East, as is usual. The history of the fabric which is woven with a pile like that of heavy wool velvet, and which is called Savonnerie, runs parallel to the long story of tapestry proper, but to make its scant details one short concrete chronicle it is best to put them all together. From the East, then, came the idea of weaving in that style of which only the people of the East were masters. Oriental rugs as such were not attempted in either colour or design, but one of the rug stitches was copied. We have to run back to the time of Henri IV, a pleasing time to turn to with its demonstration of how much a powerful king loved the welfare of his people. When he interested himself in tapestry, one of the three important existing factories was stationed in the Louvre. This was primarily for the hangings properly called tapestry, but in the same place were looms for the production of work “after the fashion of Turkey.” Sometimes it was called work of “long wool” (longue laine) and sometimes also “a la façon de Perse, ou du Levant,” as well as “of the fashion of Turkey,”—all names giving credit to the East from whence the stitch came by means of crusades, invasions and other storied movements of the people of a dim past. How long ago this stitch came, is as uncertain as most things in the Middle Ages. We know how persistently the cultivated venturesome East overflowed Eastern Europe, and how religious Europe thrust itself into the East, and on these broad bases we plant our imaginings. Away back in Burgundian times there are traces of the use of this velvet stitch. Tapestries of Germany also woven in the Fifteenth Century, use this stitch to heighten the effect of details. But the formation of an actual industry properly set down in history and dignified by the name of its directors, comes in the very first years of the Seventeenth Century when Henri IV of France was living up to his high ideals. Pierre Dupont is the name to remember in this connexion. He is styled the inventor of the velvet pile in tapestry, but it were better to call him the adaptor. The name of Savonnerie came from the building in which the first looms were set up, an old soap factory, and thus the velvet pile bears the misnomer of the Savonnerie. Pierre Dupont (whose book “La Stromaturgie” might be consulted by the book-lover) was one of the enthusiasts included by Henri IV along with the best high-and low-warp masters of France at that time. Being placed under royal patronage, the Savonnerie style of weaving acquired a dignity which it has ever had trouble in retaining for the simple reason that the legitimate place for its products seems to be the floor. The Gobelins factory finally absorbed the Savonnerie, but that was after it had been established in the Louvre. Pierre Dupont who was director of tapestry works under Henri IV even goes so far as to vaunt the works of French production over those of “La Turquie.” The taste of the day was doubtless far better pleased with the French colour and drawing than with the designs of the East.

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