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Work Elephant Tapestry
Department of Decorative Arts: 19th century
Tapisserie à l'éléphant dite "L'Asie"
© 1999 Musée du Louvre / Thierry Malty
This tapestry depicting an elephant in an exotic landscape was woven at a carpet factory in Aubusson established by Alexis Sallandrouze, cousin of the better-known Charles-Jean Sallandrouze de Lamornaix (1808-67). The design, attributed to Jean-Baptiste-Amédée Couder (1797-1864), draws on a number of different sources. By introducing these exotic influences, the tapestry contributed to a revival of the decorative arts in France in the 1840s.
A vision of Asia
The luxuriant landscape is framed by pairs of twisted columns supporting an ogee arch. The ornamental border is very rich, composed of a dense, complex tracery recalling the decorative vocabulary of Islamic architecture. Above, on either side, two niches holding vases of flowers are revealed behind upraised blinds. Beyond this architectural frame lies a luminous landscape in which an Asian elephant can be seen passing between a palm and a banana tree. The elephant, richly caparisoned from top to toe, bears a howdah in which a woman in oriental dress carrying a feather fan reclines. A peacock in the lush vegetation observes the elephant, while a monkey tries to hide in the left-hand niche to escape from a macaw. The animals and birds are all references to the continent of Asia. The tapestry may have been part of a set representing the continents.
Woven using the Aubusson technique at the factory set up by Alexis Sallandrouze in 1838, this tapestry reflects the considerable skill of the workshop that produced it. Sallandrouze, who also had an establishment in Paris, based his business on carpets designed by his colleagues. He won a bronze medal at the Industrial Exhibition of 1839 and further awards at later exhibitions. Jean-Baptiste-Amédée Couder (1797-1864) ran an enormous industrial design practice and collaborated with Sallandrouze on a number of occasions. It may have been he who provided the design for the Elephant Tapestry. Couder was indeed fascinated by Islamic art and design, especially carpets and Persian miniatures; among his works are the so-called Nou-Rouz shawl and the Virgin Forest carpet, both imbued with the exotic.
Sources of inspiration
Islamic art has already been discussed as a source for this tapestry. That influence is mainly seen in the border, the stars, and the tracery. The Elephant Tapestry also recalls the Indies Tapestry woven at the Gobelins manufactory in the early eighteenth century, from which the Louvre has a piece called The Light-Bay Horse, in which an elephant also makes an appearance. In its overall composition, "Asia" recalls the Royal Houses Tapestry, also made at Gobelins. Like Couder's work in general, the Elephant Tapestry, remarked upon by Théophile Gauthier at the 1844 industrial exhibition, contributed to a stylistic renewal in the decorative arts, textiles in particular, with its introduction of exotic themes and ornament.
BibliographyNouvelles acquisitions du département des objets d'art (1995-2005), Paris, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, à paraître.
"Aubusson et l'Asie", in L'Estampille l'Objet d'art, n 292, juin 1995, pp. 62-67.
Charles-Jean Sallandrouze de LAMORNAIX ((1808 - 1867))
Tapisserie à l'éléphant dite "L'Asie"
Tapisserie, laine et soie
H. : 7 m. ; L. : 5,68 m.
Don de la fondation Simone et Cino del Duca, à l'occasion de son 20e anniversaire, 1995
Modèle attribué à Jean-Baptiste-Amédée Couder (1797 - 1864)
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