Lot 11
  • 11

A Louis XIV Savonnerie Carpet Fragment

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
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  • wool, pile
  • Mounted on stretcher: approximately 135 by 113cm; 4ft.5in, 3ft. 8in.
woven depicting a radiant sun (attribute of Truth personified, as 'all is revealed by its light'), with vestiges of a the rim of the crown above, enclosed by an upward scrolling golden cornucopia tied with acanthus and laurel (associated with Victory and Virtue; attributes of Apollo, the Sun God) and bound with pink ribbon tied bow, with a snake entwined around the cornucopia tempted by the fruit cascading from it (snake being the symbol of Prudence personified; attribute of Minerva, the goddess of Wisdom, and alluding to the victory of Apollo over the python), within an arc of a golden band surround enclosing golden flowerheads tied together with blue ribbon, with a larger foliate motif from which emanates exuberant acanthus leaves, with an ivory outer surround,



probably from a carpet ordered by Louis XIV for the Galerie d'Apollon or Grande Galerie, Palais du Louvre
Francesca Galloway, London
Daniel Katz, London
Christie’s, London, The Niall Hobhouse Collection, 22 May 2008, lot 167 


Charissa Bremer-David, French Tapestries and Textiles in the J. Paul Getty Museum, J.Paul Getty Museum publication, Los Angeles, California, 1997, Savonnerie Manufactory, pp.129-161, No.14., Carpet for the Galerie du Bord de l’Eau, Palais du Louvre, pp.138-145;
Wolf Buchard, Savonnerie Reviewed: Charles Le Brun and the ‘Grand Tapis de pied d’ouvrage a la Turque’, woven for the Grande Galerie at the Louvre, Furniture History, Vol.XLVIII (2012), pp.1-43, for discussion of the series and comprehensive appendix of subsequent carpets and fragments which have emerged since Verlet’s publication;
Jules Guiffrey, Inventaire Général du Mobilier de la Couronne sous Louis XIV (1663-1715), Paris, 1885-1886 (2 Vols), vol. 1, pp.392-409, p.401, No.191); transcription of Inventaire du Mobilier de la Couronne, compiled in 1697 by Gédéon du Metz, contrôleur general des Meubles de la Couronne; and Jules Guiffrey, Comptes des bâtiments du roi sous le règne de Louis XIV, Paris, 1881-1901 (5 Vols), Imprimerie Nationale; Madeleine Jarry, The Carpets of the Manufactory de la Savonnerie, Leigh on Sea, 1966;
Sarah B. Sherill, Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America, New York, 1995, Chp. 3, France, pp.58-109, Savonnerie of Louis XIV, pp.61-73;
Pierre Verlet, The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor: the Savonnerie, 1982, pp.474-496;
Frank John Bagolt Watson, The Wrightsman Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1966, Vol.2, Savonnerie Carpet, no. 277, pp.495-499


Measurements: without the frame – approximately 129cm at highest, 110cm at widest. The fragment has been professionally conserved and attached onto a linen panel and attached to linen covered wooden mount. The reverse of the fragment is covered and not visible (covered with quilted support fabric and therefore protected), and not visible. The densely woven pile is generally 2-3mm overall with density of approximately 8V, 8H. Being fragmentary, each side is irregular, with the left side having the indent in the lower half, as visible in the photograph. The main image in the printed catalogue shows the fragment within the surrounding mount. There is a 'v'-shaped loss and small knick in the top edge and lower edge, as visible in the photograph with the mount behind, and the small ‘v’-shaped knicks in the lower edge, have dark lining behind, as visible in the photograph. There is a small rectangular patch (10cm high by 14cm wide) in the far right top corner from the edge, below the oranges and leaves, and woven depicting azure blue and two small leaves (and does not join with the design if turned the other way, and is therefore from somewhere else originally. There are some minor losses in areas of pile overall visible from the photograph, visible as small lines and specks, for example top left corner to the fruit and smaller areas elsewhere. There are lower areas of pile within the top band, visible as different levels in the top left corner of fruit and to the dark band of azure blue top across the top. There is some old moth damage, for example in the lower left corner of the ivory ground, as visible in the photograph, with some deeper within the pile than others. There are some repaired shaped and vertical old splits, for example a repaired shaped split in the lower left quadrant in the far roundel of the curved border running into the azure blue ground, as visible in the photograph, and other splits. There are some vertical repairs, with couched hand stitches consolidating the area, and some vertical splits visible along the lower section, left of centre and further right of centre (with a small hole in the centre), rising from the lower edge, and one through the mouth and lower section of mask of sun motif. There are for example, four small holes, one in the top half, just above the curve of the snake in the azure blue ground, and another to one of the straight rays of the sun motif, centre of the left side and at the base of the ray and within the sun mask, another is in the top right corner of one of straight rays of the sun, and one in lower left corner of the ivory ground near the tip of the acanthus leave, and the pile is lacking; all are visible in the photograph. There is a darkish surface stain to the right of the snakes head, within the cornucopia, visible in the photograph. This is beautifully drawn and a balanced compositional fragment, with delicate colouring.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The savonnerie carpets commissioned by Louis XIV for the Galerie d’Apollon and the Galerie du Bord de l’Eau (known as the Grande Galerie), in the Palais du Louvre, represented an extraordinarily, ambitious and innovative decorative scheme through which the gloire of the Sun- King was to be celebrated.

The design of the carpets incorporated royal emblems, allegorical depictions of virtues and allusions to auspicious attributes to the reign of the King, as well as those to the arts and sciences. The motifs were incorporated within a classical layout of dominant central sections, flanked at each end by bas-reliefs, and all were within a unifying border type.

On the 7th October 1667 Philippe Lourdet, Head of the Chaillot workshop delivered thirteen savonnerie carpets for the Galerie d’Apollon at the Louvre Palace, which had been woven between 1664-1666. This marked the first stage of the elaborate scheme and the Galerie d’Apollon carpets served as an initial trial for the very grand and challenging suite of ninety three carpets to follow for the Grande Galerie, which were produced between 1670 and 1685. Apart from the central carpet in the Galerie d’Apollon, all were woven as pairs, to complement each other and assert complete symmetry between the two halves of the gallery and correspond to the architectural interior designs. The Grande Galerie was divided into two unequal parts by a pavilion crowned with a lantern, and the first section was to contain carpets 1–35 (Royal Inventory - Nos.142-176-177 never woven), the second section carpets 37-93 (Nos.178-234).

The carpets for the Galerie d’Apollon were entered in the Royal Inventory as carpets 67–79 (Nos. 208-220). The weaving of the commission for the Galerie d'Apollon took approximately two years to complete, with carpets being delivered between the years of 1667 and 1669. From production and delivery records kept by Dupont, we know today that he was responsible for thirty-two of the Grande Galerie carpets and the Lourdet workshops for the remaining sixty. The artistic vocabulary found in the present lot reflects that which was found in the carpets of the Galerie d'Apollon. It is extremely difficult to determine which carpet in the series this fragment is taken from, although it is similar to one of the first carpets woven in the series, which was to be placed in the middle of the gallery under the bay of the vault which was later decorated by Delacroix in 1849. Both the present fragment and that carpet employed the Royal emblem of the crowned radiating sun although the majority of the crown above the present example is missing, Pierre Verlet, op. cit, London, 1982, pp.182-3, fig.114.

Seven of the original ninety-three carpets designed for the Grande Galerie had a central sunburst, recorded in Verlet, ibid., pp. 474-496, Nos. 3, 6, 12, 18, 32, 52 and 82, with an additional ten of the Louvre carpets employing sun motifs elsewhere in the design scheme.

For another carpet incorporating the unusual motif of the snake entwined around the cornucopia, see an important Louis XIV Savonnerie carpet fragment, from the Galerie d'Apollon, Sotheby's, Milan, 21 October 2003, From the Estate of a Milanese Lady, lot 420 (see Fig. 1). The carpets for the Galerie d’Apollon were entered in to the Royal Inventory as numbers 67 – 79. One of the ways of differentiating those woven for the different galleries was the design of the border, which for the Galerie d’Apollon was narrower and classical in design with a secondary line of cabled fluting, changing for the Grande Galerie borders and becoming a more stylised cabochon design of wider format, and the fleur-de-lys turned outwards on the ninety-three carpets as opposed to inwards on the earlier thirteen. The border type of this carpet is the Galerie d'Apollon design, and the piece could have been the end section of carpet no.78 or 79.

This is an interesting comparison as it suggests the present fragment probably being from a carpet from this initial scheme of carpets for the Galerie d'Apollon, with the overt symbolism of the sun god and the comparable use of the snake entwined around the cornucopia. The fragment is particularly evocative, with the motif of the radiating sun, from a unique grand scheme of carpets commissioned in in honour of the Sun King, Louis XIV.

To show the influence of the exceptional Louvre designs of the carpets of the Galerie d'Apollon and Grande Galerie of the 17th century, on the future carpets produced in France, see a similar design motif to the present fragment, with the sun motif, surrounded by fruit and flower-filled cornucopia joined by ribbon ties and laurel leaves, on an azure blue ground, and within a surround with rosettes and blue ribbon, in a savonnerie style carpet, from the late 19th century, sold Sotheby’s, New York, 10 November 2006, lot 156. The carpet is clearly inspired in design by the series commissioned for the Louvre, having the sun god allegorical elements and the same border type, although departs from the prototype designs, in having an ivory field overall, and an overall exuberant rinceaux design free of architectural ornament.

For further information pertaining to the Savonnerie carpets of the Grande Galerie, see lot 9 in this sale.