The most important European styles in the
history of European rug weaving are the French Savonnerie and Aubusson
styles of the 17th and 18th century, which are still being copied by
many countries. The Savonnerie workshops were set up in Paris by Pierre
Dupont in 1628 under the supervision of Henry IV.
In the 13 century, French knights,
returning from the crusades, brought with them oriental rugs that they
called Tapis Sarrasinois after their Saracen foe. Other Turkish style
rugs continued to find their way West, but at the beginning of the century,
they were still expensive and rare. That's why in 1608, Henry IV
formally commissioned a weaver named Pierre Dupont, who claimed to have
discovered how to make rugs a la ' facon de perse et du levant', to set up
shop in the Louvre. So satisfied was Henry with Dupont's rugs that
before his death in 1610, he decreed that the output of the Louvre atelier
was to be reserved exclusively for the royal family. His son, Louis
XIII, was only nine when his father died, but in 1627, at the age of 26,
he instructed Dupont to open up a new shop at the Savonnerie, a former
soap factory (''Savon'' meaning ''soap'').
Savonnerie rugs were mainly woven for
palaces, state gifts, important commissions and by special order. These
designs were produced under the direction of the artists of the royal courts, it
included floral arrangements, military and heraldic references and
In its heyday, the Savonnerie took sixty
orphans aged ten to twelve and apprenticed them for six years, at the
end of which term, one would be granted the maitrise while the others
would remain journeymen. The children were taught the art of design as
well, a painter from the Academie coming once a month to inspect their
The carpets were made of wool with some
silk in the small details, knotted using the ghiordes knot, at about
ninety knots to the square inch. Warps were made out of linen and the
woolen pile was woven using the symmetrical knots. Some early carpets
broadly imitate Persian models, but the Savonnerie style soon settled
into more purely French designs, pictorial or armorial framed
medallions, densely-massed flowers in bouquets or leafy rinceaux against
deep blue, black or deep brown grounds, within multiple borders.
The greatest period for Savonnerie rugs
was between 1650-1789. Their production was interrupted by the French
Revolution, and finally in 1825, the Savonnerie workshops were moved to
the Gobelins factory. There still is a working museum at Gobelins, funded by the State.
To maitain excellence in the interpretation of the designs 'cartoons' were produced as a full size representation of the artwork for each carpet and these were faithfully followed by the weavers. Craigie Stockwell still follow this tradition of detailing intricate aspects of their designs.
Craigie Stockwell Carpets have both created and recreated a substantial .number of Savonnerie designs for clients all round the world. Launching a collection of modern Savonnerie designs some years ago, we were at the forefront of a revival of interest in this style of design. We have built up a large library of designs over the years.