The Moorfields carpet factory, founded by Thomas Moore (c. 1700-1788) in 1752 was one of the leading English carpet manufactories of the second half of the eighteenth century. Other entrepreneurs who founded workshops during this period are Paul Parisot in London and later Exeter, Claude Passavant in Exeter and Thomas Whitty in Axminster, with Moorfields and Axminster producing the majority of carpets and the only two workshops to survive past the mid-18th century. Prior to weaving hand knotted carpets, Moore produced silk stockings, as well as silk and wool cloth, an experience that made him a skilled weaver.
Moore’s success as a carpet producer was in large part due to his close relationship with Robert Adam (1728-1792), the pre-eminent neo-classical architect and designer of the eighteenth century, who hired him for important commissions and often even provided models for carpet designs.
The pair to this carpet is at Syon House, Middlesex and is considered to be the earliest surviving carpet woven by Moore (see Sarah B. Sherrill, Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America, New York, 1996, pp. 178-179, pls. 180-182). Inspired by Roman mosaic pavements, Adam often used the tripartite plan found on this carpet for both ceilings and carpet designs.
A Robert Adam drawing of the Syon House carpet is in the collection of the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London and is inscribed “Carpet for the Drawing Room at Sion [sic]” and dated 1768 (see Sherrill, ibid., p.180, pl. 183). The carpet itself, still on display at Syon House in the Red Drawing Room, is inscribed “by Thomas Moore 1769” in embroidery on the tapestry woven end-finish at the top. Adam’s carpet designs would often complement the ceilings for the rooms in which they were intended but in this case, the carpet design is more suitable to the tripartite design of the adjacent dining room ceiling at Syon, a design Adam called “compartment ceiling.” Our example is not signed but it may have been at one time as both ends are not original and we can surmise that it was woven shortly thereafter the Syon House example.
This carpet was at one time in the Yellow Drawing Room at Ingestre Hall, a Jacobean mansion near Stafford in Staffordshire and formerly the seat of the Earls of Talbot and Shrewsbury. There are no records that Robert Adam or Moorfields supplied this carpet for Ingestre Hall but when the rooms were opened to the public in the late 1950s, the carpet was in the Yellow Drawing Room, a room that was redecorated at the end of the nineteenth century when the hall was largely rebuilt in 1882 after a damaging fire. Despite the lack of records definitively linking the commission of this magnificent carpet to Ingestre Hall, two members of the Shrewsbury family, one of the oldest earldom’s in the English nobility whose first creation was in 1074, are plausible candidates as the original patron: George Talbot, 14th Earl of Shrewsbury (1719- 1787), who is likely to have been a patron of the cabinet-makers Ince and Mayhew (who often worked in Adam houses) and was known to be renovating the main family seat Heythrop House in a neo-classical idiom in the 1770s; or John Talbot, 1st Earl Talbot (1749 –1793), who inherited Ingestre Hall in 1786 and whose ‘antique’ tastes are evidenced in his swagger grand tour portrait by Pompeo Batoni, and whose grandson inherited the Shrewsbury title in 1856, thus reuniting the two families.
Despite his success, the output at Moorfields was not substantial and very few carpets extant today can be unquestionably assigned to Moore. Design vocabulary was fluid between Axminster, Exeter and Moorfields in England and Aubusson and Savonnerie in France. Not only were weavers going back and forth between the different workshops sharing technique and design, but designs were widely copied and shared during this period. Moorfield carpets are distinguished by semi-depressed warps often incorporating colored counting warps placed every ten pairs of warps and the use of a mixture of ivory, brown and blue wool wefts, traits that can be found in this carpet.
Besides the pair to this carpet at Syon House, other surviving Moorfields carpets are the three at Osterley Park in the Drawing Room, Tapestry Room and State Bedroom--all designed by Robert Adam with the original drawings in the Sir John Soane’s Museum. One of Moore’s most illustrious clients was the Prince of Wales for whom he made carpets with one surviving that was made in 1792 for the Gilt Room (in 1811 it became the Throne Room). Like this carpet, it too has a change in field color due to the mordant of the brown dye that faded unevenly.
More recently, a rediscovered Moorfields carpet originally woven for Home House, London and commissioned by Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Home was sold at Christie’s, 19 May 2004, lot 166 (incorrectly ascribed to Aubusson). Another carpet attributed to Moorfields formerly in the collection of Boscobel House, Garrison, New York, was sold in the sale 'Rooms as Portraits: Michael S. Smith; A Tale of Two Cities', New York & Los Angeles, Christie's, New York, 26 September 2018, lot 84.
In this carpet, the outline of the three main medallions is a Vitruvian scroll pattern that is similarly used in the Osterley Tapestry Room carpet where the motif outlines each spandrel decoration. This carpet also shares the anthemion motif in the main border although treated differently. The central circular fan rosette medallion is related to the oval fan rosette in the Osterley Park Drawing Room carpet.