The two Pontremoli needlework carpets offered here (as lots 37 & 38) both exemplify the exquisite hand worked designs of Jacques Mereno Pontremoli (1886-1952), who sometimes, as here, signed his pieces with the initials JMP
, in an outer edge of a corner. The Pontremoli family, of Italian Sephardic origin, established workshops in Paddington, West London in 1910, supplying home furnishings, particularly including antique carpets and textiles. They became especially well known in the 1930's through to the 1950's for the combination of their two fields of expertise, and produced needlework carpets and rugs which were based upon 16th and 17th century textiles and early English needlework carpets. In 1931 there was a campaign to encourage the public to purchase items of English manufacture and the Pontremoli family took this exhortation to heart, using British materials and training local women to work with them, with great success. They were commissioned to produce pieces, as recorded in their archives, for Embassies in London and overseas and for many distinguished homes. Pontremoli's patrons included H.M. Queen Mary (who granted Pontremoli a Royal Warrant), H.R.H. The Duke of Kent and Her Majesty the Queen, Henry Channon, M.P. amongst others. The carpets offered here, were a pair commissioned for the ballroom of the Somerset home at Stratford Place, and each piece is recalled to have taken eleven ladies, two years to complete. Many of Pontremoli’s carpet designs originate from the long and rich tradition of European carpets and textiles. Earlier pieces were in the Directoire, Regency or Adam styles, complementing architectural interiors. Then the designs became more typically, beautifully balanced compositions including overall main fields of floral and foliate designs, often with overall isolated individual flowers and/or scrolling foliate trails, with complementary borders which sometimes incorporated the distinctive Tudor rose motif in the corners, or a flowerhead flanked by stylised stems. The intricacy of the petit
point work more often found only in isolated motifs, is evident in the present examples in all the flowers. The ground colours were often a pastel shade, and in the offered pieces are a pale yellowish ivory colour, with pastel shade floral and foliate motifs. The Pontremoli pieces, having been worked in a mix of gros
point stitches, along with the distinctive delicate pastel colour range, all combined to convey an overall effect of flowers on the ground underfoot.
For comparable examples sold at auction, see a JMP signed example, early 1930’s, with eau-de-nil ground (562 by 326cm), Christie’s, London, 23 May 2012, lot 375, previously from Edward James Collection, West Dean Park, sold by Christie’s, 6 June 1986. For another similar, Pontremoli needlework small carpet, initialed JMP, circa 1920 (292 by 175cm), with pale yellow ground, the floral field centred with fruit and with birds in each corner, see Sotheby’s, New York, Property from the Collection of Mary Sayles Booker Braga, 19–20, October 2015, Lot 707. For a very distinctive signed Pontremoli carpet, circa 1935, (1171 by 450cm) with spandrels with horizontal rows of stylised flowerheads and a similar floral design on a beige ground, see A Celebration of the English Country House, Sotheby’s, New York, 29 April 2002, lot 804 (which when sold at Sotheby’s, in October 1988, made a record price of $209,000).
Lewis, The Pontremoli Collection, Leigh-On Sea, Publishers Limited, 1942
Mayorcas, J., English Needlework Carpets, 16th – 19th centuries, Leigh-On Sea, Publishers Limited, 1963