Woven after a design by Pierre-Josse Perrot and Jean-Baptiste Blin de Fontenay Jr.
Atelier of Jacques de Noinville
Commissioned by the Administration Royale for the personal use of Louis XV in the Royal Chapel at the Château de Versailles
Raimond Bourdillion, July 1797
Collection Alfred Sommier, Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte
Jean Vittet, Tapis de la Savonnerie pour la Chapelle Royale de Versailles, Réunion des Musées Nationaux: Paris, 2006, p. 51 (illustrated)
The death of Louis XIV in 1715 and the appointment of Philippe d'Orléans as Regent of France sparked the boom of artistic changes that had begun in France with the renovation of the royal apartments at Versailles in 1701. During the years of the regency, the solemn baroque style of the Grand Siècle quickly morphed into the exuberant and sensuous rococo. The changes rapidly manifested themselves in all media from furniture to silver, to textiles. The present lot, with its garlands of flowers, l'aile de chauve-souris (bat's wing) motif and restrained use of acanthus leaves, is a good example of the products of the Savonnerie at a time when the war trophies, overwhelming architectural elements and never-ending heavy scrolls of acanthi of the Louis XIV style started to fade from the artists' repertoire. Whereas the Sun King's carpet designers were primarily painters, the new craftsmen at the royal weaving workshops often devoted themselves solely to designing cartoons for carpets, sometimes also aided by painters. During the first half of the eighteenth century, the most creative and influential among such designers was Pierre-Josse Perrot (1700-1750), who made numerous cartoons for the Savonnerie.
Perrot is first mentioned in the records as a decorative painter at the Gobelins, but he later rose to the post of leading designer at the Savonnerie factory, where he worked from 1725 until 1750, see Sarah B. Sherill, Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America, Abeville Press: New York, 1995, p. 74. He left an indelible mark on the production of carpets at Savonnerie, where his lavish rococo designs were used until the Revolution of 1789. Perrot’s designs for Louis XV himself always incorporate royal insignia; the Arms of France, the fleurs-de-lis, or Louis XV's signature of interlaced LL's. The fleurs-de-lis in the present lot demonstrate that it was commissioned by the royal court. Another example of a Savonnerie carpet by Perrot with royal insignia is in the James A. de Rothchild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, see Sherill, op. cit., p. 78. Carpets with similar bas-relief masonry pattern background and fascia border are in the Swedish Royal Collection, HGK.475, and in the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Vienna, see Pierre Verlet, The Savonnerie, National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty: London, 1982, pp. 263 & 284.
The present carpet was commissioned by the Administration Royale in 1727 as part of the efforts to furnish the royal chapel at Versailles after the court had moved back to the château from Paris with the end of the regency in 1720. The atelier entrusted with the weaving of the piece was that of Jacques de Noinville. The Noinville establishment was the direct successor of the first workshop producing carpets in "façon de Turquie et du Levant" founded by Pierre Dupont under Henry IV, see Jean Vittat, Tapis de la Savonnerie pour la Chapelle Royale de Versailles, Réunion des Musées Nationaux: Paris, 2006, p. 12. Perrot and the weavers at the Noinville atelier were to create numerous other carpets for the Chapelle Royale between 1725 and 1728, all which had to harmonize not only with Pierre Lepautre's architecture but also with furnishings designed by the most distinguished artists of the day such as Thomas Laîné. The current piece must have been woven at great speed at it is already listed in an inventory prepared for the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne in December 1728 as the central panel of a three-compartment carpet: "No. 311 -Un tapis d’ouvrage de laine de la Savonnerie à trois compartiments quarrés, fond bleu pâle en èchiquir, celuy de milieu représente un vaze remply de fleurs au naturel dans un cartouche fond jonquille, sous deux festoons de fleurs; chaque compartiment est enfermé d'une bordure de baguettes bleues à feuillages tournans couleur d'or." Unlike most carpets at the chapel that were often used in other rooms of the château, particularly on festive occasions, the current lot was never removed from the space for which it was designed, see Vittet, op. cit., p.28. According to the 1728 inventory, this carpet was placed under the king’s prie-Dieu: “Pour servir dans la chapelle du château de Versailles [...]; au-des-sus du vaze il y a une échancrure quarrée d'une aune sept seize de large sur une aune et demy de haut, où se doit placer le prie-Dieu de roy.” The specific location and orientation of the carpet explains its one-way design, which is highly unusual among Savonnerie carpets of the eighteenth century. The carpet remained in its original place until the Revolution, and was only removed for occasional cleaning as it was subject to daily use, see Vittet, op. cit., p. 18. On July 26, 1797 this carpet, along with 43 other “tapis de pied de la Savonnerie,” was given to Raimond Bourdillion, a supplier of the revolutionary army, in lieu of the payment of 60,881 livres he was due for his services, see Verlet, op. cit., p. 431. Bourdillion later sold 23 of the above pieces to Dubois de la Touche, from whom Napoleon I purchased them for the Mobilier National in 1807. However, the current lot was not among the pieces acquired by the emperor and in the coming decades it made its way into the Collection Sommier at the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte. During the 19th century an upper section was added to the original square format to create a rectangular furnishing carpet. The added area, undoubtedly woven with chemically-dyed wool, has faded in the intervening years more than the natural dyes of the original 18th-century weaving.
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