In 1742 control of the carpet workshop on the site of the old soap manufactury in the village of Chaillot, just outside the Paris city walls, passed from the Dupont family to that of Pierre-Charles Duvivier. Duvivier, or Duvivier père as he came to be known to distinguish him from his son Nicolas-Cyprien who succeeded him as entrepreneur, controlled the factory for over thirty years, until he retired in 1774. Shortly after he took over the production a series of cartoons were produced which then served as the basis for production of a considerable number of small, medium and large size floor carpets for most of the following thirty years
Some of the original carpet designs have survived in the papers of Robert Cotte, who was himself one of the designers used by the Savonnerie. These designs are now in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, including the initial pen and chalk design for the present carpet. The attribution of a number of them to Pierre-Josse Perrot, the main designer at the Savonnerie from 1725-1750, is confirmed by a note on one of them in a contemporary hand "dessin de Perrot", and we can be confident that it is Perrot's hand in the initial drawing for our carpet. Perrot was an artist who was renowned for his brightly coloured rococo designs; Pierre Verlet describes Perrot's work as "the embodiment of Louis XV at the Savonnerie". In addition to the preliminary drawing, the same archive also has a watercolour and gouache drawing which shows many similarities, notably ribbon-tied floral bouquets (des bouquets de fleurs liées d'un ruban) very similar to those found in the present carpet. These flowers are probably the work of Jean-Marc Ladey (circa 1710-1749).
Due to the extensive records from the Savonnerie workshops it is often easier to date the first model of a particular carpet than the cartoon itself. Many designs saw their first weaving in the years 1744-1746. Each of them was woven a number of times over the successive years; one was woven as many as twenty-three times between 1745 and 1790. The first weaving of the present carpet design was finished in 1745, to be followed by a number of further examples. This was typical of the successful Savonnerie designs; it allowed the Garde-Meuble administrators to respond to the needs of the Royal household and the various palaces, and to deliver the carpets that were required within a relatively short period of time.
Carpets for the royal chapel at Versailles
The stone flagged chapel floor had begun to be covered with Savonnerie carpets ever since King Louis XIV had expressed the wish that this should happen. The carpets were part of a massive decorative programme which was started in 1709, whose accomplishment brought both beauty and comfort to long ceremonies. Having completed the nave, work continued on carpets for the lateral chapels throughout the eighteenth century.
In 1754 Queen Marie Leszcynska, the wife of Louis XV, had a carpet à bouquets de fleurs liées d'un ruban delivered for the area in front of the altar dedicated to the Virgin (no. 340 from the Garde-Meuble).
The description in the Garde-Meuble inventory reads:
N340 pour servir à la chapelle de la Vierge.
Un tapis d'ouvrage de laine de la Savonnerie, fond jaune chargé d'un grand compartiment fond brun sur lequel est rapporté un plus petit compartiment fond couleur de bronze entouré d'une guirlande de fleurs; aux quatre coins sont quatre bouquets de fleurs liées de ruban bleu, long de 4 aunes 1/6 sur 2 aunes 15/16 de large (sic)
With 1 aune equating to 1.19m, this translates to 4.96 x 3.50m. Bearing in mind that the present carpet has lost around 7-10cm. all around, these dimensions are virtually identical to the original size of the present carpet.
The same year an identical carpet was delivered for "Mesdames" (the daughters of Louis XV), "pour la chapelle de la Vierge"
The design seems to have been a particular favourite of the King since a number of examples were commissioned for the Royal Garde-Meuble. Two further examples were delivered for the use of the Royal household, one for the cabinet d'angle at Versailles, the other for Madame de Pompadour's Château de Bellevue. Further examples were also woven through the third quarter of the century.
One of these carpets is still preserved today in the King's inner office also known as the cabinet d'angle at Versailles, underneath the Riesener desk, in exactly the same place for which one of the carpets of this design was originally woven.
A second example of this design is in the bedroom of the Comte de Camondo at the Nissim de Camondo Museum in Paris.
A third was sold through Marc Ferri at auction in Paris on 7 July 1992 as lot 175.
Bibliothèque Nationale, Cabinet des Estampes, ms. Ha 18.
Jean Vittet, Tapis de la Savonnerie pour la chapelle royale de Versailles, RMN, 2006, pp.20 and 54-55.
Pierre Verlet, The Savonnerie, Office du Livre, Fribourg, 1982, pp. 66-68, 107, 274-275 and 280.
Elisabeth Floret, 'Les Tapis Français' in Tapis dans le Monde, Mengès, Paris, 1996.
La demeure d'un collectionneur, Musée Nissim de Camondo, Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 2007.
Sarah B. Sherrill, Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America, New York, 1996, p.79.
Hali 65, October 1992, p.151