History of the Beauvais Tapestries

Beauvais Tapestries and the Beauvais Manufactory

The gorgeous and opulent tapestries known as the Beauvais tapestries were woven at the Beauvais manufactory in the 17th and 18th centuries. Often considered the second most important tapestry manufactory in France after the Gobelin tapestry manufactory, the Beauvais tapestries were made for nobility and the wealthy bourgeoisie. Let’s take a closer look at the history and development of this iconic manufactory.

Founding of the Beauvais Manufactory

In 1664, Jean-Baptiste Colbert was the finance minister of France. He was looking for a way to promote the French industry, and so that year he founded the Beauvais tapestry manufactory. Although established by Colbert, the manufactory was a private enterprise. While the similar Gobelin manufactory crafted tapestries for France for royalty, palaces, and ambassadorial gifts, the Beauvais manufactory remained private. Over the years, it was run by many different entrepreneurs.

Louis Hinart Beauvais Tapestries Nazmiyal

Louis Hinart’s floral tapestry design.

The first entrepreneur to head the Beauvais manufactory was Louis Hinart. He was known for and developed the notoriety of his floral, foliate, and landscape tapestries. After his arrest in 1684 (he failed to pay his debts), the manufactory was taken over by Philippe Beghale, under whose management the workshop took off with success. Beghale was an experienced tapestry manufacturer and merchant from the nearby town of Oudenarde, with work experience in the traditional tapestry weaving center city of Tournai.

18th Century Antique French Beauvais Tapestry by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs

18th Century Antique French Beauvais Tapestry #70734 (sold)

While at the Beauvais manufactory, he created many well-known works. He was inspired by the Gobelin tapestries, as well as the cartoon paintings of the painter Raphael, and engravings of artist Jean Bérain. While in Beauvais, he created his most well known work, the series of Grotesques.

Beauvais Grotesques Tapestries Nazmiyal

One of the Grotesques tapestries, created after designs by Jean Baptiste Monnoyer.

After Beghale moved to Paris, where he continued creating tapestries until the end of his life, he passed away and the manufactory was passed to his wife and son. By 1711, they had sold the manufactory to the Filleul brothers. Under their ownership, the Beauvais manufactory produced tapestries based on Greek mythology and Roman poetry, as well as a series of “Chinese” wall hangings. These Chinese style wall hangings are notorious in the history of chinoiserie design.

Beauvais Chinoiserie Tapestry Nazmiyal

A Beauvais chinoiserie tapestry from the ´Histoire de l’Empereur de Chine’ (Story of the Chinese Emperor) series.

The Height of the Beauvais Tapestries

The Beauvais tapestries, however, are said to have reached their highest point when Jean-Baptiste Oudry replaced the most recent owner, Jacques Duplessis, in 1726. Jean-Baptiste Oudry was considered one of the greatest animal painters of the 18th century. At the same time that he took over making the Beauvais tapestries, he was also the inspector of works at the Gobelin manufactory. This was the first time the Beauvais manufactory was run by an artist rather than just a businessperson. Although Oudry was financially backed by Nicolas Besnier, Besnier did not make any of the creative decisions in the business or interfere with the artistic production. During Oudry’s time as head of the manufactory, he also notably made lots of productive changes to the company. He revamped the training system for the new workers at the factory, renewed designs, and created new, innovative designs. He also introduced the immensely popular tapestry covers for furniture.

Beauvais Manufactory Furniture Upholstery Nazmiyal

A tapestry-upholstered bench seat from Beauvais; this one is currently on display at the Met Museum.

Even the king of France, Louis XIV himself was mesmerized by the furniture tapestry covers. Even though the Gobelin manufactory specifically made any tapestries the king wanted, the king decided he would purchase two sets of these tapestries every year to use as foreign gifts. This was a huge testament to the quality of the works produced at Beauvais, as well as a boost to the manufactory’s notoriety and popularity.

Beauvais Tapestry Upholstered Seats Nazmiyal

A set of Beauvais tapestry upholstered seats, given by King Louis Phillipe I of France to his daughter for her wedding in 1832.

The manufactory continued throughout the eighteenth century under Oudry, and he took on a partner, Francois Boucher. (The familiar “Boucher-Beauvais” tapestries are those rococo suites designed by him). They worked together successfully, taking on even more help and more royal support. Unfortunately, the Beauvais manufactory’s decline began with Oudry’s death in April of 1755. Furthermore, that same year, Boucher defected to the Gobelin manufactory. Without their leadership, the manufactory simply recycled old designs, ever declining in quality, until the French Revolution. During this war time there was animosity between the company’s administration and the weavers themselves, until the factory eventually shut down completely. Eventually, it reopened under State direction, now making only upholstery covers. The quality continued to deteriorate into the 19th century, and production declined.

The Legacy of Beauvais Tapestries

Although the Beauvais manufactory eventually came to an end, as everything must, it was iconic during its time and still is to this day. From the iconic, original designs to the pioneering of furniture tapestry covers, Beauvais was known for innovation and quality.

Here are some tapestries from the Nazmiyal Collection to inspire you:

Antique D’Art De Rambouillet Edition French Tapestry Nazmiyal

Antique D’Art De Rambouillet Edition French Tapestry

Antique French 17th Century Tapestry Nazmiyal

Antique French 17th Century Tapestry

Large Italian Wall Tapestry Nazmiyal

Large Italian Wall Tapestry

Rare Antique 17th Century Flemish Tapestry Nazmiyal

Rare Antique 17th Century Flemish Tapestry

Antique 18th Century French Tapestry Nazmiyal

Antique 18th Century French Tapestry

Small Size Antique French Tapestry Rug Nazmiyal

Small Size Antique French Tapestry Rug

This art blog about the Beauvais Tapestries was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs.

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