Raison d'etre

I am enthusiastic about home design and love French antique and vintage treasures.

This blog is about the things I find and use.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Aubusson Cartoons

Design for Canapè Back - Gouache on heavy paper
Detail of above
Tapestry cartoons were produced by local painters - and sometimes well known artists - as designs for hand weavers to follow in creating tapestries.  In the eighteenth century Charles le Brun and other famous painters at the Royal Court were often responsible for directing the cartoons.  

The designs were painted either in gouache on thick paper or oil on canvas and were pinned below the warp threads of the loom for the weaver to follow when creating tapestries.  On completion the cartoon was rolled up and stored for future use.  Wools and silks were dyed to match the colours of the cartoon which was often cut to allow the weaver, or weavers, to work on a section at a time.  

Aubusson in the departement of Creuse in Central France was the first centre for tapestry weaving dating back to the fifteenth century.  Painting workshops were set up to provide designs for the tapestry weaving industry here and at other centres such as Beauvais and Gobelins.  In 1731 the official Royal painter at Aubusson was Jean-Joseph Dumons who had worked with Boucher in the Beauvais tapestry workshops.

By the end of the nineteenth century the Aubusson tapestry industry had collapsed and the cartoons were left forgotten in factory archives.  In 1951 the river Creuse burst its banks flooding the warehouses and destroying many of the 18th century and some of the 19th century cartoons stored on the lowest racks.Those which survive today are mainly from the nineteenth century and are delightful paintings, in fact pieces of art, in their own right.  They were working designs and thus have marks, pin holes and creases from storage.
Design for a chair seat -Gouache

Chair Back Cartoon - Gouache

Subjects were drawn from fine art - scenes and stories from the Bible, mythology, history and literature.  A particular speciality at Aubusson were 'verdures' - verdant scenes including hunting, nature and the forests of the Massif Central.  

Most of the cartoon painters are unknown and many of the skills were passed down in families with particular painters specialising in animals, flowers or figures. 

Small fragment from larger cartoon - Gouache

The designs range from those produced for furniture - chair and sofa backs and seats to hand woven tapestry hangings.  Becoming much harder to find these lovely tapestry designs are to be treasured when they do appear.
Detail of chair back cartoon cut into four
for weaving and re-assembled

Framed design for a chair back

Framed fragment of larger cartoon
I know of two dealers in cartoons - one is Julia Boston in London who has the most wonderful collection from chair and sofa designs to large tapestries.  The other the recognised specialist in the field - Jean-Yves Lhomond situated in the Puces de St Ouen Paris.

All the illustrations are of cartoons I have owned or sold - the two framed examples are those I have kept..
I am still looking for a large verdure cartoon - one day I shall find it!