The Savonnerie carpet offered here represents the flourishing of the woven arts in the 17th Century France and the unabashed, bold and powerful reign of Louis XIV. When Louis XIV ascended the throne in 1661, it was decided with his chief minister, Jean Baptiste Colbert, that a refurbishment of the Louvre was necessary to make a statement to the world manifesting the power of the King and the State. One aspect of this huge redecoration plan was to furnish the Galerie d'Apollon and the Galerie du Bord de l'eau, otherwise known as the Grande Galerie, with carpets of a calibre not yet executed in France. Both the Dupont and Lourdet families who had establised competitive workshops worked together and built new special looms on which a carpet could be woven lengthwise, whereby the looms were as large as the length of the carpet thus allowing more weavers to sit side by side and weave simultaneously, speeding the process and promoting the local industries (S. Sherill: Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America, New York, 1966, p.69.).
The first carpets executed for the renovation were thirteen carpets for the Galerie d'Apollon which were considered a trial run for the ninety-three carpets needed to cover the entire Grande Gellerie which at 1,460 feet by 32 feet was an intimidating project. Work began in both the Lourdet and the Dupont factories in 1667 after the last carpet for the Galerie d'Apollon was delivered. The weaving of the commission took approximately two years to complete, with carpets being delivered between the years of 1668 and 1669. From production and delivery records kept by Dupont, we know today that he was responsible for thirty-two of the Grande Galerie carpets and the Lourdet workshops for the remaining sixty (P.Verlet, The James A. de Rothschild collection at Waddesdon Manor, The Savonnerie, London, 1982, p. 179, notes 24-41).
Sadly, this magnificent suite of carpets was never installed in situ, as Louis XIV lost interest in the restoration of the Louvre and moved his court to Versailles in 1678. The importance of the Grande Galerie carpets, however, was neither forgotten by Louis XIV nor lost on his immediate descendants. For the seventy-eight years following Louis XIV's death, the carpets were stored virtually intact by the Gande Meuble. Occasionally, Louis XV and Louis XVI used some of the carpets from the series for ceremonies or events, underscoring the high respect with which they were regarded. Unfortunately, following the revolution of the Directoire, many of the carpets were dispersed and neglected, with many of the ninety-three carpets cut down to fit less palatial spaces.
It is possible that the carpet offered here is a fragment from carpet no. 43 (no. 184 in the Royal Inventory), Hunting, listed in
P. Verlet, Savonnerie: The James A. de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, London 1982, Appendix A, p. 485. Carpet 43 was woven by Dupont in 1677 and was the eighth carpet he produced. No. 42 was acquired by Bourdillon in the year V of the Revolution: bought back by Directoire, a fragment of this carpet was sold in Paris in 1937.
Most of the extant Grande Galerie carpets known today are preserved in museums, with more than fifty examples in the national collections of France, three in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, three in the Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino, CA and four carpets at Waddesdon Manor as well as numerous other museums and private collections.