Saturday, January 2, 1971

Manufacture of The Savonnerie

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By creating a “manufacture” of carpets at the Louvre palace, Henry IV wished to endow his kingdom with craftsmen capable of rivaling the foreign works that were being massively imported. Pierre Dupont, “Carpetmaker in Ordinary of Turkey carpets and Levantine imitations,” was placed in charge of this manufacture. At the same period (1607), the Flemish François de La Planche created a “manufacture of soaps [“savon” in French], trade and traffic in them in the cities of Paris, Rouen, Nantes and others” at Chaillot. 
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After the manufacture went bankrupt in 1609, the buildings were converted into a hospice by Marie de Médicis. On September 5, 1626, Pierre Dupont, “Carpetmaker in Ordinary to the King living in Paris at the Louvre galleries” and Simon Lourdet, “carpetmaker, living at the Savonnerie near Chaillot,” founded a partnership to produce “all sorts of carpets, other furnishings and works from the Levant, all in gold, silver, silk and ferreting as well as in wool,” using a few of the young orphans from the Chaillot hospice for whose education they were responsible.
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In 1671, the Dupont family left the Louvre galleries and settled in the Savonnerie. In 1673, the works became a royal manufacture following Louis XIV’s wishes. Starting in this year and for the next two decades, the Duponts and the Lourdets worked together at the Chaillot Savonnerie and created the celebrated series of carpets designed for the “Great Gallery of the Louvre.” 
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After a crisis period at the very end of the XVIIth century, the manufacture once again underwent rapid expansion, starting in 1708 (appointment of the marquis of Antin as the king’s director of building and manufactures) and 1713 (Utrecht Treaty). Throughout the XVIIIth century, it worked for the royal houses, under the direction of the Duvivier family, who replaced the Duponts subsequent to a marriage. 
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The French Revolution halted production but the works did not disappear. They became an imperial manufacture under Napoléon I. Finally, under the Restoration, the manufacture was attached to the Gobelins and despite the protests of the workers and its last director Ange Duvivier, was transferred to the Gobelins site in 1826. The Savonnerie thus lost its autonomy and became an annex of the Gobelins. 
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The quality of the drawings supplied by the cartoon artists unquestionably contributed to the success of the Savonnerie in the XVIIIth century. In 1670, Charles le Brun (Paris, 1615 - Paris, 1690) executed preparatory drawings at the Savonnerie for the Grand Gallery of the Louvre. Pierre-Josse Perrot, who was influenced by the ornamentalists Berain, Audran and indirectly by Watteau, created the Louis XV style in carpet decoration. 
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The painter Michel-Bruno Bellangé played the same role under Louis XVI, and at the close of the century he was undoubtedly inspired by Soufflot, Perrot’s successor. He held the monopoly on designs for the Savonnerie and created a very personal style that grew out of his training as a floral painter. In 1778, he worked for Marie-Antoinette’s Turkish boudoir in Fontainebleau, providing several drawings for the carpet. He executed several cartoons for Marie-Antoinette’s apartments in Versailles: for the Queen’s bedroom in 1779-1780 and for the Méridienne room in 1781. He died in Rouen in 1793, depriving the manufacture of a brilliant, original and productive talent which had created a precious, elegant and fantasy-filled style corresponding to Marie-Antoinette’s taste and which was very quickly imitated by other manufactures, notably that of Beauvais. 
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Three distinct techniques: 
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Inlay: The decoration (wood, ivory, tin) is inserted in grooves previously cut into a solid wood panel. 
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Veneering: A solid-color thin sheet of any number of precious woods (or other material) is glued onto a wood frame that it completely conceals. 
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Marquetry: The same principle as veneering, except that instead of a single sheet, an actual puzzle of wood pieces or other material in different tones is cut out to make up a decoration. It should be mentioned that the copper and tortoise shell motifs in Boulle furniture were executed in marquetry and not in inlay, as is occasionally incorrectly indicated. 
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Pierre Verlet, The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, the Savonnerie, Office du Livre, 1982. 
Pierre Kjellberg. Le Meuble français et européen du Moyen Age à nos jours. Les Editions de l’amateur.