Historic Fabrics to Adorn Powerful Buildings

The historic fabrics, remnants of the Ancien Régime and orders placed by the Imperial Garde-Meuble bear witness to the technical virtuosity of the manufacturers of Lyon and Paris. They are an incomparable testimony to the places where power was wielded.

By Mobilier National, Manufacture des Gobelins, de Beauvais, de la Savonnerie

Réserve de passementerieMobilier National, Manufacture des Gobelins, de Beauvais, de la Savonnerie

The collection of furnishing textiles of the Mobilier National is distinguished by its historical, technical and aesthetic importance in the history of French interior design. The collection has been inherited from the commissions of the royal and imperial furniture stores, providing an overview of French centres of power from the "Régence" to the present day.

GMMP 33/1 (1812) by unknownMobilier National, Manufacture des Gobelins, de Beauvais, de la Savonnerie

With its wealth of almost 35,000 pieces, the collection includes curtains, wall hangings, seat upholstery and bedspreads from the 18th century right up to the present day.

These materials were ordered for the rulers' palaces such as Versailles, Fontainebleau, Compiègne, Saint-Cloud, the Tuileries, Rambouillet, and so on, ...

... as well as for the national palaces such as the Elysée Palace.

Conception à l'atelier décorMobilier National, Manufacture des Gobelins, de Beauvais, de la Savonnerie

Today, this collection is being continually enriched with contemporary textiles, commissioned and made by the upholstery workshops of the Mobilier National to grace the rooms in the highest institutions of the French state.

GMMP 8 (1811/1815) by unknownMobilier National, Manufacture des Gobelins, de Beauvais, de la Savonnerie

The collection encompasses various kinds of textiles: silks and cottons from the Ancien Régime, silks from the First to the Second Empire, trimmings, seat tapestries from the 18th and 19th centuries, great fabric designs from the 3rd to the 5th Republic, etc.; to these can be added the collection of the former Musée des Gobelins, made up of archaeological and non-European fabrics.

GMMP 178 (1731/1733) by unknownMobilier National, Manufacture des Gobelins, de Beauvais, de la Savonnerie

Very few fabrics prior to the reign of Louis XV have been able to be preserved due to their fragile condition. Many fabrics have been destroyed to recover their gold or silver threads, faded by the sun, attacked by pests or they have simply gone out of fashion. 

Many fabrics have suffered the ravages of time and are forever lost to us.

GMMP 859 (1788) by GaudinMobilier National, Manufacture des Gobelins, de Beauvais, de la Savonnerie

Hence, the fabrics of the Ancien Régime in the collection are survivors of destruction and being sold in a succession of revolutions. They are precious evidence of the furnishings of Louis XV and Louis XVI.

GMTC 165 (1801/1900) by unknownMobilier National, Manufacture des Gobelins, de Beauvais, de la Savonnerie

The role of the silk workers from Lyon is intimately linked with the history of the collection. Ever since the end of the 17th century, the French sovereigns unstintingly supported the Lyon silk industry throughout the upheavals of history and right up to the French Revolution, which forced the Lyon manufacturers to stop all their production for the Garde-Meuble.

Napoleon Bonaparte's visit to the city of Lyon in 1802 gave the industry a fresh start with an initial order for the Château de Saint-Cloud. From 1804 onwards, the emperor ordered extensive building work to redesign the palaces in keeping with the style of the time and the prevailing representations of power.

Garniture de siège destinée à la Chambre de l'Empereur Napoléon Ier au Palais de Meudon (1811) by Bissardon, Cousin et Cie, Bony et Cie, à LyonMobilier National, Manufacture des Gobelins, de Beauvais, de la Savonnerie

The orders grew to furnish the Palais des Tuileries, Fontainebleau, Versailles, Meudon and Compiègne. All the orders placed by the Imperial Garde-Meuble pushed the silk workers of Lyon to achieve a very high level of excellence and enabled them to perfect their art. Between 1811 and 1813, 80 kilometres of Lyon silk were delivered to the Emperor Napoleon.

In this respect, he said that it was "an outlay for one hundred years", a very accurate statement as due to the large quantity of these textiles, they continued to be used throughout the 19th century.

Some textiles have never been used and are exceptionally fresh. 

GMMP 1/1 (Livré entre le 12 novembre 1814 et janvier 1815) by unknownMobilier National, Manufacture des Gobelins, de Beauvais, de la Savonnerie

Today, these collections are on loan to many museums as temporary exhibitions.

They are also used as models when museums, especially castles, are looking to reproduce them for their interior decors.

Researchers, academics and curators regularly come to study them. All the digitally scanned pieces can be viewed on the institution’s website.

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