Interiors and Exteriors
Art and Design
Objects and Antiquities

Tuesday, January 21


Gobelins Tapestry Factory has been running intermittently since the 17th century. Now a state run institution since 1937, they specialize in 4 techniques: High warp looms (Gobelins tapestry) low warp looms (Beauvais tapestry), pile (Savonnerie carpets) and tapestry restoration.  I took a tour this week and was able to see weavers (licier) in action (unfortunately photography was not allowed inside).  The guide whisked us quickly through the courtyard which served as a town square in earlier days; Paris was yet to surround the factory and the workers made up their own community.  You can see above the chapel they used, steps away from where Louix XIV would inspect tapestries hung outside from hooks still intact today (but covered by scaffolding on my visit).

The high warp looms are in the yellow building dating from 1660 (pictured below), but the remaining facilities are across what used to be the Bievre river (now a road) in a 1960's lowrise.  Romance aside, the new buildings have better light.  In order to work here you must train for 4 years in weaving techniques as well as colour, design theory and art history.  All work is made for use by the state or as diplomatic gifts.  The designs are chosen by the directors from original artwork or reproductions of existing tapestries.  In most cases the technicians work from the actual artwork rather than using a photograph or copy so as to capture the exact tones and textures of the piece.  Each tapestry takes years of labour and I couldn't help but wonder if the weavers ever despaired over a design they despised.

In the 17th century, Charles Le Brun (chief painter for Louis XIV), was the director at Gobelins.  The tapestries which he designed and managed, many made for Versailles, were executed with very fine thread so that each worker would only complete approximately 1 meter square per year.  Today, much thicker yarn is used unless a reproduction is being made.

The gallery accompanying the production facilities is currently presenting an exhibition of tapestries from their collection highlighting nature in design.  Below you will see a chronological sampling from the 15th through to the 21st century where you'll be able to see changes in both complexity and style.

Verdure (detail), Aubusson Tapestry, 1671

Vedure a Portique (detail), Tapestry from Audenarde, 1560-1580

Verdure (detail), Tapestry from Flanders, 16th century

Le Printemps (detail), by Charles le Brun, Gobelins Tapestry, 1709

Le Printemps (detail), by Charles le Brun, Gobelins Tapestry, 1709

Le Printemps (detail) by Jean Lurcat, Tapestry of Aubusson, 1946

Le Printemps (reverse) by Jean Lurcat, Tapestry of Aubusson, 1946

L'embellie by Paul-Armand Gette, Gobelins Tapestry, 2008

Fruits Fleurs Poissons by Yves Oppenheim, Gobelins Tapestry, 2010

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