The Savonnerie carpets of the late 17th century are among the greatest achievements in the decorative arts produced in France during the reign of Louis XIV. These carpets are remarkable in terms of both their quality of weave and extremely fine degree of pictorial representation and are even more extraordinary in that they were produced at a time when the technique of pile-carpet weaving was relatively new to France. The production of Savonnerie carpets was controlled at Chaillot by the Dupont and Lourdet family workshops, which worked in competitive collaboration throughout this period.
The best known Louis XIV Savonneries are those commissioned by the King for the Galerie d'Apollon and the Grande Galerie in the Louvre. These two commissions, comprising a total of 106 carpets, account for almost the entire production of the Dupont and Lourdet workshops during the late 17th century. However, there is documentary evidence of a limited weaving of other carpets commissioned by Louis XIV for use in other areas or to be given as royal gifts.
The design of the present carpet is almost identical to the medallion of a carpet, of unusual shape, delivered by Simon Lourdet in 1668 for an alcove of Louis XIV's bed chamber in the Tuileries Palace, and now in the Collection Mobilier National and on display in the Louvre (see Verlet, Pierre, The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, the Savonnerie, 1982, p. 150, fig. 91). Both the Tuileries example and the Mikaeloff piece share the same depiction of the arms of France surrounded by armour, banners, weapons and cornucopia within architectural borders and surrounding floral garlands. The only major difference between the central designs of the pieces is a reversal of background coloration: The Tuileries piece has a central ivory medallion ground and a black ground in the surrounding field reserve, whereas the Mikaeloff carpet has a black medallion on an ivory field surround. As is true with the Galerie d'Apollon and Grande Galeri carpets, the design of the Tuileries alcove carpet is attributable to Charles LeBrun, first painter to Louis XIV (see Jarry, Madeleine, The Carpets of the Manufacture de la Savonnerie, 1966, p. 28). With its close association to the Tuileries carpet, it can be assumed that the Mikaeloff piece was woven from this LeBrun design by the Lourdet workshops around the same date.
As briefly mentioned earlier, almost the entire production of the Savonnerie workshops during this time was devoted to the commissions of the King. Therefore, it is quite likely that the present carpet was made for Louis XIV either as a companion piece to the Tuileries carpet, or for a similar use in another room, or as a gift to a favored subject or foreign dignitary. It is also possible that the original shape of the Mikaeloff piece differed from the Tuileries example and that the central motif was favorably viewed by the King and was reproduced in another, hitherto undocumented, commission.
Unfortunately, most extant Savonnerie carpets from the 17th century exist today only as fragments. While the importance of these carpets has been appreciated since their creation, many examples were cut down to fit less palatial spaces during the 19th century. Regardless of the fragmentary state of the current carpet, it is still a noble testament to the magnificence and beautiful achievements of the Savonnerie workshops during the late seventeenth century.