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Department of Decorative Arts: 17th century
This carpet was the seventh of a set of thirteen carpets commissioned by Louis XIV for the Apollo Gallery at the beginning of his reign. It differs from earlier works in the strictly compartmented, symmetrical design, combining classical ornaments, royal symbols, and floral motifs.
A compartmented carpet
This carpet was made for the Apollo Gallery and its design mirrors the compartmented ceiling. It is divided into three parts arranged symmetrically around the central motif, a lyre surrounded by laurel branches. Molded borders outline the compartments around this motif. The black backgrounds set off the vivid colors of the foliage and flowers, while the pale grounds add a luminous note. Both enhance the golden tones which, along with the intricate decorative motifs, make the carpet even more dazzling. In Le Brun's hands, classical decoration took on a new dimension with opulent, colorful foliage, acanthus leaves teamed up with fleurs-de-lis, and other decorative devices. The same design and decorative repertory were used for the twelve other carpets in the Apollo Gallery. Laid side by side, they made one huge carpet, contrasting with the ceiling, which was never finished.
The first major royal commission
An official agreement dated March 31, 1664 reinforced the statutes of the Simon Lourdet workshop. The Hôpital Général undertook to supply sixty children as apprentices each year and it was agreed that an artist from the Académie Royale would regularly come to check the models and train the cartoon artists. The commission for this set probably came shortly afterwards and work began on the first carpets during the year. In June 1666, the thirteen carpets were almost finished. However, they were not delivered to the Royal Furniture Repository until October 7, 1667. It would appear that were hastily laid in the Apollo Gallery, probably for a visit by Louis XIV. Since work on the gallery was not finished, the carpets were soiled and had to be sent back to Philippe Lourdet's workshop for cleaning. They were not recorded by the furniture repository until the following year.
A decorative and highly symbolic pattern
The lyre and laurels in the center of the carpet are a reminder of its patron, who was starting to be compared to the god Apollo. As a result, royal symbols and Apollonian symbols are mingled in the various ornaments. Fleurs-de-lis are used on their own or combined with acanthus leaves and rosettes. They make a structured braid which harmonizes perfectly with the rest of the pattern. Apollo's attributes - the sun, the snake, and the laurel - also figure in the design - in the moldings, in the midst of acanthus leaves or around the globes.
These carpets launched a new decorative language, both brilliant and majestic, which was one of the factors in the far-reaching influence of French art in the following century.
BibliographyJean Vittet, "Contribution à l'histoire de la Manufacture de la Savonnerie au XVIIe siècle : l'atelier de Simon et Philippe Lourdet d'après les minutes notariales ", in Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art français, 1995, pp.101-103
Manufacture de la Savonnerie
Provenance : Made for the Galerie dApollon at the Louvre; assigned from the Mobilier National, 1901
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