Carpets and rugs are now essential features of our interiors, providing comfort and softness as well as putting the finishing touch to a home. Let’s take a brief look at their history.
Knotted pile rugs were first made by nomadic peoples to protect themselves from the cold. Softer and warmer than animal skins, they were used to line their tents. Rugs initially served a functional role, becoming decorative as the centuries wore on. In the time of Crusades, Europeans were captivated by the rich, exotic patterns and textures of the rugs brought back from the Near East. Up until the 17th century, those listed in inventories were mainly of oriental origin. However, the Europeans decided to create their own knotted pile rugs to meet the growing demand. They adopted the technique employed by Turkish carpet makers but with Western patterns. Prior to the 16th century, European production was limited, except in Spain and in France, it was only at the beginning of the 17th century that sizeable carpet manufacturers were established, including the Savonnerie manufactory in 1627. From this point forward, rugs became a key element of home decor and would remain so in centuries to come, chosen to match the furniture and woodwork.
Wall-to-wall carpets started to be made in France in the mid-17th century when a manufactory was established at Abbeville in 1667. Wilton carpets, named after the town in England, where the first cut-pile carpet loom was patented in 1741, enjoyed great popularity. Following the fashion in England, French noblemen’s houses in the reign of Louis-Philippe had fitted carpets. Braquenié began specialising in rugs in 1830 and became the dealer for a large number of carpet manufacturers (including Aubusson) in France and other countries. For this reason we now boast a very fine collection of more than 1,000 gouache rug drawings and 1,500 carpet samples. Preserved with the utmost care, the collection includes a variety of styles from Renaissance through Oriental to 20th-century designs just waiting to be brought back to life.
Louis XIII style (1590-1660)
Louis XIII style refers to the carpets produced by the Savonnerie manufactory between 1600 and 1663. For the most part they are small carpets with a floral pattern on a black ground. A simple composition would consist of a busy, regularly-spaced pattern almost entirely obscuring the ground. The iconographic repertoire of these carpets is composed mainly of vases and baskets of flowers or judiciously scattered, identifiable, naturalistic flowers on a dark (or black) ground evoking the colour of ebony furniture, so adding to the cohesion of the overall decor.
Louis XIV style (1660-1710)
Carpets from this period are characterised by symmetrically-placed motifs on a dark ground. The edges would often show a tableau with an allegorical or pastoral motif or a bas-relief in camaieu. In the centre would be an easily-recognisable motif such as a globe, royal emblems or a sun. These carpets are large – up to 9 metres long.
The iconographic repertoire is composed of large acanthus leaves, borders of oves (ovoid motifs), Order of Saint Michel ribbon, trumpets of renown, horns of plenty and hunting or war trophies. A recurrent motif is the head of Hercules surmounted by an animal skin and a pair of clubs.
E.g. BR2629 Carpet drawing with motifs inspired by the first carpet made for the Apollo Gallery in the Louvre.
Louis XV style (1720-1750)
In the reign of Louis XV, the domestic interiors of the aristocracy were evidence of a new-found desire for comfort and cosiness. In carpet design, the background colour starts to become more important and is contrasted with the softer colours of the pattern. Flowers accompany the movements of curved details and the borders are narrower. These carpets are decorated with garlands of flowers, shells, batwings or the King’s arms. A number of artists stand out during this period, including Robert de Cotte and Pierre-Josse Perrot.
BR276 Drawing for Louis XV Savonnerie carpet, after the design of Pierre-Josse Perrot c. 1726 or 1729. Version woven between 1736 and 1762. (basse def)
Louis XVI style (1750-1793)
Carpets in this style display two distinct trends: one naturalistic with flowers, garlands, ribbons and hunting trophies, and the other neoclassical in reference to the archaeological discoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum. This style is lighter than the previous one. The motifs are enclosed in geometric shapes. Backgrounds are plain. Border effects bring out the delicacy of the motifs. A rectilinear layout prevails.
BR45 Gouache drawing for the carpet that adorned Louis XVI’s bedchamber at Versailles. A copy is kept in the Louvre.
First French Empire and Bourbon Restoration style (1793-1830)
These carpets are very structured and rich with a monumental feel, glorifying imperial power in the first case and the return of the monarchy in the second. The iconographic repertoire is composed of caissons, palmettes, latticework, borders of oves and stylised foliage. Floral garlands are heavy and solid. Only the symbols of power change: eagles and bees in the Empire period and royal crowns for the monarchy.
Jacques-Louis de la Hamayde de Saint-Ange (1780-1860) was one of the most prominent Savonnerie designers at the end of the First French Empire and during the Restoration period. We have an early 20th-century collection which includes reproductions of this artist’s finest creations.
BR2730 Gouache drawing for a carpet for Napoleon III’s Imperial railway carriage. It is a copy of a First Empire carpet kept by the Mobilier National. Napoleon gave a similar style carpet based on a Lagrenée design to Pope Pius VII in 1804.
Napoleon III style (1840-1885)
During the second half of the 19th century, artists made relatively similar copies of the carpets made in previous centuries. Styles are of rococo or Louis XVI inspiration. They depict large bouquets and floral garlands full of birds. Lawn carpets also make an appearance.
Second Empire Carpet
The East, where the art of carpet making began, is a great source of motifs. Oriental designs, very popular in the 19th century, appear in numerous rug and carpet drawings from that period. Motifs used in the Caucasus, Turkestan, Armenia and Turkey appear often.
Some of the finest examples are Persian rugs which originated in the 16th century. They display a wide variety of patterns: paisley palms, vases, medallions, sickle-shaped leaf motifs, etc.
Gouache carpet drawing, InvBR129
Art Nouveau style (1885-1910)
The English Arts and Crafts movement, whose chief exponent was William Morris, marked the beginning of the Art Nouveau style which flourished at the turn of the century. Straight lines gave way to elegant curves and designs were simplified. Nature and the Far East were the principle sources of inspiration for this style. The subtly coloured carpets from this period are fairly flat with tortuous, stylised floral and plant motifs, with the emphasis on the lines and flowing curves.
Art Deco style (1910-1935)
The Art Deco style, which appeared around 1910 as a reaction to Art Nouveau, reached its peak in France in 1925 with the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts. This avant-garde style of decoration was adopted by the Compagnie des Wagons-Lits which operated the Orient Express and for ocean liners such as the Normandie, a modernist masterpiece and symbol of progress, speed and power. Curves and pastel tones gave way to clean lines, bright colours and geometrised motifs, particularly flowers and leaves reduced to their simplest forms. Early Art Deco designs had flowers as the main feature. Towards 1923, the flowers were incorporated into geometric shapes, checkerboards and lozenges. Finally, patterns became purely geometric bordering on abstraction.
Gouache carpet drawing by Ruhlmann, InvBR3003
After the Second World War, to revive and promote the French carpet industry, an exhibition was organised at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in 1949. This led to a renaissance of artist-designed carpets as designers like Leleu, Picard Le Doux and Coutaud were inspired through this exhibition. In the 1960s, patterned carpets gave way to plain designs in bold colours and in the 1970s geometric motifs became popular. The work of David Hicks enjoyed a reputation that lasted several decades.
Today, although we are known for our classic designs, in addition to making replicas of carpets from these different periods, we offer designs with contemporary-style motifs, raised effects and juxtaposition of materials. This is made possible by our collection of 20th-century artworks and above all by the creativity of our Rugs and Carpets department which is able to transform your wishes into reality.< Back to NEWS