Tapestry weaving was introduced into France around 1525 by Francis I at Fountainbleau but it was not until the Henry IV took the throne in 1589 that tapestries became serious decorating items.
Within a very short time (25years) Henry IV established 5 weaving locations for tapestries in and around Paris. But it wasn't until Louis XIV ascended the throne in 1643 that all the weaving locations for French tapestries were merged into one grand production house called the ‘Gobelins'.
The reign of Louis XIV (1643- 1715) was considered historically a period of enlightenment. He became known affectionately as the Sun King in France.
He encouraged the development of all the arts and craftsmen throughout Europe flocked to Paris to be part of it.
All the ateliers (crafts houses) were consolidated under one roof – the Gobelins . At its peak 250 craftsmen and their families were housed at the Gobelins. and set to work on decorating Versailles and other Royal buildings.
Famous artists were employed to make paintings (known as cartoons) for wall hanging tapestries. One famous artist would paint animals, another figures, another landscape and another architecture. These fine pieces of art work in themselves were all slated for one final destination- tapestries. The most popular artist employed for French tapestries was Rubens. His influence was felt throughout Europe and in France he became famous for rubenesque designs for French tapestries.
During the height of wall hanging tapestry weaving, one set of tapestries created was the months or Royal Residences. Each French tapestry depicted a royal chateau, viewed through a set of columns, and each tapestry represented a month of the year designated by a zodiac sign.
Several of these tapestries were lost during the French Revolution when tapestries were destroyed or burned to extract their silver/gold content which had been woven into the weft threads. Of those French tapestries remaining, several have been reproduced today and can be found on the Heirloom European Tapestries website at www.tapestries-inc.com.
The Chateau Versailles , Chateau Monceau, Chateau Chambord, Chateau Fontainebleu, Chateau St Germain, Chateau Blois, Chateau Vincennes are some of the tapestries that Heirloom European Tapestries carries and have been reproduced as close to the original wall hanging tapestries as possible. Heirloom European Tapestries employs skilled trained weavers that hand weave these tapestries in 100% New Zealand wool on looms similar to those used in weaving of the original French tapestries. The result is exquisite.
By 1684 tapestries had reached their pinnacle in popularity throughout France, and were now being shipped to other monarchies in Italy, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and Russia. The Gobelins tapestry weaving had become a permanent hallmark in the pages of history.