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The shaded brown field with a central golden molded medallion of ivory ground containing a flaming rose moresque surmounted by a golden sunflower, flanked by four sky-blue cartouches containing golden fleurs-de-lys encircled by naturalistic floral sprays and garlands, framed by a molded golden border of scrolling acanthus issuing naturalistic floral bouquets, between spiralling acanthus cornerpieces x 11ft.7in. (486cm. x 352cm.)
Probably commissioned by the Royal Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, between 1740 and 1760
A Private Lyon Collection by 1982
Anonymous sale, Christie’s Monaco, 18 June, 1989, lot 195
Pierre Verlet, The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, The Savonnerie, Office du Livre, Fribourg, Switzerland, 1982, p.107, 237 and 267, figs. 64 as a complete image, and 148 and 165 as details
Sarah B. Sherrill, Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America, New York, 1996, p.58 and pp.76-77, pl.77 and 78
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Lot Essay

This imposing and elegant carpet was created by the Savonnerie as part of a Royal commission for King Louis XV of France (r.1722-1774). The design was fashioned by the King’s favourite artist designer, Pierre Josse Perrot, peintre des Menus Plaisirs. There are five recorded commissions of carpets of this design, each woven around 1740 for the princely sum of 2870 livres – over a quarter of the annual income of a rural French noble family at that time. The first of these commissions was completed in 1740 and installed in Louis XV’s dining room at Fontainebleau.

The Savonnerie carpet manufactory was a Royal undertaking and established an unrivalled reputation, akin to its sister factory, the Gobelins tapestry workshops. The enterprise was started under the impetus and protection of Henri IV (r. 1589-1610) and his leading advisor Maximilien de Béthune, Duc de Sully, in order to stop the drain on the Royal purse of importing oriental carpets. Their aim was to develop a domestic luxury weaving industry that could supply the Crown with French carpets that would be equal to or even surpass the desirable and expensive imported eastern pile carpets. The factory appears to have been started in 1604, when Henri IV granted Pierre Dupont space for a workshop in the Royal Palace of the Louvre, in the area below the Grand Galerie. The factory became known as the Savonnerie due to the adoption of the buildings of the abandoned soap factory at Quai de Chaillot by 1627 - then outside the Paris city walls but now on the site of the Palais de Chaillot in the 16eme arrondissement. Under the patronage and protection of the Bourbon monarchs and exempt from the usual guild regulations the factory flourished, manufacturing carpets for the floor and to cover furniture almost exclusively for the Court, the Royal Palaces and for diplomatic gifts.

The journal du Garde-Meuble, the administration responsible for overseeing the furniture and objets d'art of the Royal palaces, records the King directly commissioning five carpets of this design. Two were woven and presented as gifts to Sultan Mahmud of Turkey in 1740 and 1742, a third was presented to the Turkish Ambassador, Zaid Effendi, in 1742 and a fourth was given to the Duc of Choiseul in 1758, woven in 1742 it had been on loan to the French Embassy in Rome, and was given to the Duc upon his leaving the Embassy. Sarah B. Sherill lists an additional carpet of this design which was formerly in the Austrian Imperial collection (Sarah B. Sherrill, Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America, New York, 1996, p.77). The gifting of these carpets to the Turkish Sultan and Turkish Ambassador is particularly revealing as it shows that after just over a century of production at the Savonnerie Henri IV’s goal had been achieved of creating products to rival the great carpets of Turkey and the Levant. The extraordinary condition of the present carpet indicates that it was most likely woven as a diplomatic gift from the King. The Savonnerie carpets that remain in a good state of preservation were almost without exception given as gifts before the fall of the Ancient Régime and as a result avoided the destruction that was brought to bear on Royal property after the Revolution. A fragment, comprising the central medallion of a carpet of the same design, bears the scars of this Revolutionary vandalism with all four fleurs-de-lys having been cut out (

The importance of the quality and inventiveness of the designs produced at the Savonnerie cannot be overemphasised. It was largely due to the success of their designs that the factory was able to see off competition from rival factories. From the Savonnerie's inception the greatest decorative painters of the age were engaged to create carpet designs, and figures such as Charles Le Brun, Robert de Cotte and Pierre-Josse Perrot were all involved in developing designs to decorate the Royal Palaces. The initiative for the creation of new designs rested with the King and his advisors. It is interesting to note the active role that both Louis XIV and Louis XV played in the commissioning and development of new designs; they acted as taste-makers determining the themes and style of new commissions. Louis XV's direct intervention can be seen in the notes that adorn some of the surviving carpet sketches from his reign, where the words Bon or A exécuter appear in the margins, which suggest that designs were submitted directly to the King for approval. This personal involvement allowed the monarch to cultivate a style that was immediately recognizable as Bourbon with its Royal insignia and symbols but that was also developed to be a reflection of the Court of the day.

Pierre-Josse Perrot (1700-1750), was the artist that defined the decorative style of Savonnerie during Louis XV's reign. Perrot is first recorded as an artist working for the Royal ateliers in 1715, when his name appears in conjunction with the design of a tapestry for Gobelins. Perrot was already established as an important artist when he undertook his first carpet commission for the dais of the throne room at Versailles, a collaborative design with Blain de Fontenay the Younger. His designs built on the extraordinary achievements of the de Fontenays at Savonnerie under Louis XVI's reign but have a very definite identity that is pure 18th century. This combination of continuity and innovation is the key to Perrot's success. By modifying the architectural and slightly austere Baroque designs of the Grand Galerie carpets he honed a new style that retained the architectural framework of the earlier designs but adopted a less dense organisation of the different elements. His designs feel lighter and more delicate, often surrounded by floating garlands and bouquets of naturalistic flowers that were so in vogue during this period. In other words, Perrot represents the development from the Baroque to the Rococo at the Savonnerie, an aesthetic that we associate with the court of Louis XV and his famous mistress Madame de Pompadour. His designs are characterised by the richness and vibrancy of their colours and the flowing patterns with carefully controlled movement. An emphasis is placed on the central panels or medallions, which often bear Royal insignia such as the fleurs-de-lys or a single bold motif such as the rose moresque in the present lot, which is surmounted by a golden sunflower, adopted by the Sun King, Louis XIV and his successor Louis XV as a symbol of the glory of the Bourbon dynasty. The centralisation of the design is balanced by a lightening of the design towards the corners and in this case the airy swirling acanthus, which are connected to the central medallion by the lattice or fretwork of crossing floral stems that spread out from the medallion creating a similarly light and floating quality.

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