Friday 19 May 2023

À la recherche des tapis perdus

 Imagine a walkway some 13 metres wide and 442 metres long-covered in carpets.

in 1615

This was the ambitious plan presented to Louis XIV by his minister Colbert to furnish the space stretching between the Louvre(at that time the king`s residence) to the Tuilleries Palace and its garden.  

The carpets were woven in a disused soap factory which came to be known as the Savonnerie.

Two families,the Dupont and the Lourdet,vied for the commissions.The designs were overseen by the King`s painter Charles Le Brun together with a group of leading artists.

Initially,13 carpets were woven for the Galerie d `Apollon, followed by 93 for the Grande Galerie(actually 92,as one,Nr 36,was never produced)Work begun in 1665 with the designs.Weaving commenced in 1668,and the entire project took around twenty years.At some point along the way the King lost interest as his attention turned to Versailles,and the carpets were assigned to storage.

The entire assembly seems never to have been shown in place.A number of carpets were presented as gifts,to the Persian and Turkish ambassadors,to the Swedish Royal House-even to the King of Siam.

During the revolution some of the carpets were  bartered for horse-feed and their royal insignia were often cut out and replaced with more mundane decoration.

Some 40 pieces remain in the Mobiler National and others are scattered worldwide.


The Long Gallery

The entire surface area is said  to have covered around 3,700 square metres,with a standard length of just under 9 metres.Years were spent foraging for the right quality of wood to build the looms.The Savonnerie building was enlarged to accomodate them and an army of orphans was pressganged into service,many of whom subsequently fled.

The present photo-essay builds on the work of Pierre Verlet, whose catalogue to the Rothschild Collection ("Waddesdon")is a history of the Grande Galerie enterprise.Verlet`s publication is one of the great carpet books.In 2012 Wolf Burchard published an update to the list of surviving examples.

Woven uniformly on a brown-black ground,the carpets echo the design system employed by the Mamluks in their large productions: a dominant central medallion accompanied by two  satellites.The French examples replace the minor medallions with bas-reliefs featuring either landscapes or mythological characters. A border of Gadroons and blue leaves was standard on all examples.According to Susan Sherill, the carpets were woven sideways,allowing many more weavers to work on each carpet,thus speeding up the operation considerably.Although woven with the Turkish knot,the depressed warp structure is more akin  to the Persian world,or indeed to that of the Mamluks.Colbert had attempted to acquire oriental carpets as early as 1662, but such a large quantity was not forthcoming.This is presumably why he went ahead with local production.Not much investigation has been carried out regarding the dyes used.The Savonnerie had their dyework outsourced, unlike the Gobelins where it was part of the manufacture.Cochineal,madder,indigo(or woad?) and local yellow dyes were employed.It can be assumed that the brown-black ground colour common to all examples was produced by overdying natural dark brown wool.

Carpets for the Galerie d `Apollon.


13 carpets for this space were delivered on  7 October 1667. 4 complete examples survive, and 8 fragments.The series can be considered as a dry run, made on the first giant looms set up at Chaillot.

GdA1 & 2



GdA4(Stavros Niarchos,Paris)

GdA5 & 6-Fragments from the first carpet in the series-left:Mobilier national;right. Notre Dame

GdA7-At Christies in 2018

GdA8 -Mobilier national 1531


GdA9-Mobilier national 2881

GdA10-Mobilier national 1345

GdA11-Mobilier national 10159


GdA12-Sothebys 2017

The borders on the carpets for the Galerie d `Apollon were simplified for the larger series.

after Verlet,figure 121

Francesca Galloway

 Carpets for the Grande Galerie.


Palazzo Reale,Naples

Nr 1

Nr 1


Lempertz 29.5.2020-927

Nr 5 or 17

Louvre OA5432

Nr 6

Mobilier national 6304

Nr 9 or 19

Mobilier national 6304

Nr 10 or 14

Catan Collection,later at Christies

Nr 11

Metropolitan Museum 52.118

Nr 11

Huntington Art Gallery

Nr 12 or 18

Nr 13 or 27

Mobilier national 4062


Mobilier national 10157

Nr 16 or 26

Mobilier national 12362

Nr 17

Louvre 5432

Nr 19 or 9

Mobilier national 16019

Nr 20

Louvre 2267

Nr 21

Louvre 6735

Nr 22

Mobilier national 4061

Nr 23

Huntington Art Gallery

Nr 26 or 16

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Nr 28 or 6

Mobilier national 6978

Nr 29 or 33

Mobilier national 2013

Nr 34 or 15


Nr 38

Metropolitan Museum 58.75.129

Nr 40

Mobilier national 2012

Nr 43


nr 44

Christies 2021-formerly Garcia Collection

Nr 46

Mobilier national 2022

Nr 48

Etude Couturier Nicolya Paris 1993

Nr 49

Mobilier national 4060

Nr 50

Nissim Camondo,Paris

Nissim Camondo,Paris

Nr 51

Mobilier national 2021

Nr 53

Mobilier national 2037

Nr 54

Mobilier national 1345

Nr 55

Mobilier national 2023

Nr 56

Mobilier national 2027

Nr 57


Nr 58

Mobilier national 2036

nr 59

Mobilier national 2016

Nr 60

Pitti Palace

Nr 61or 89

Ex-Deering Collection, sold at Christies in 2000 for $1,326,000

Nr 62

Mobilier national 2017

Nr 64

Mobilier national 2018

Nr 65

Mobilier national 2024

Nr 67

Mobilier national 14041

Nr 68

Mobilier national 2032

Nr 69

Mobilier national 2028

Nr 70

Mobilier national 2025

Nr 72


Nr 73

Wrightsman Collection MET 1976.155.114

Nr 74

Mobilier national 74

Mobilier national 74

Nr 75

Mobilier national 2034

Nr 76

Mobilier national 14039

Nr 77

Mobilier national 14040

Nr 78

Mobilier national 2067

Nr 82

Mobilier national 20471

Nr 83

Mobilier national 2035

Nr 84



Nr 85

Mobilier national 2020

Nr 88

Mobilier national 6776

Nr 92


Nr 93

Mobilier national 2015

Verlets plan of the Grand Galerie carpets in formal layout