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.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

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Tapestry Border with Historical Record

Recently I was able to buy a wonderful long and wide 18th century tapestry border with a rare document showing it had been repaired and restored in 1902

Measuring 364 cm wide and 50 cm deep it is the top border  of the tapestry and composed of a central cartouche with a countryside scene flanked by flowers and architectural elements.

On the back is this label:

Worked in cross stitch on canvas the label has remained in good condition because it would have been between the tapestry and the original lining and therefore not subject to wear or light degradation.

Wardour Street, Soho, London was home to many antiques and curio dealers at the end of the nineteenth century  and, interestingly, in the late 1700s, Thomas Sheraton had his furniture showroom there. They were superseded by film and theatre companies in the early part of the twentieth century.

Soho was also, of course, the location of the Soho tapestry works of the early 18th century.

I have had some difficulty in finding evidence of Georges Herpin & Co. except for one or two vague references but, it would seem that tapestries bearing a similar label have been found in America.

As for the work itself it is now very evident which parts were repaired - notably around the brown border:

The repairs, using a somewhat gingery brown wool, stand out in contrast with the original darker wool.  The original would have been dyed with natural pigments whereas, from the middle of the nineteenth century, synthetic dyes became possible and commonly used.  One assumes that M. Herpin chose a wool which approximated the original colour, so it is startlingly evident how much the original natural dyes have faded and mellowed in the more than a century since he carried out the work and, even when he was working on the tapestry, it was already more than a hundred years old.

Looking at the reverse it can be seen that the colour of the border is much closer to that of M. Herpin's repairs.  It is always startling to see how vibrant some of the colours are when they have not been exposed to light.

As for the source of the tapestry it is, as always, very difficult to ascertain without detailed provenance.  I incline to it being produced in the Marche - the area around Aubusson and Felletin (Felletin was supposed to use brown borders and Aubusson blue but these rules were not always kept).  However, it could equally well have been produced elsewhere in France, or even be Flemish.  As the weavers moved so frequently between different tapisseries, and even different countries, and designs and ideas were exchanged or copied - it is difficult to be certain.