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Aubusson and Savonnerie... adding a touch of elegance to any room

Posted on 02 October 2013

The small town of Aubusson in the La Marche region of France has been renowned since the 15th century as the birthplace of fine tapestries and carpets. Situated on the banks of the river Creuse and with a plentiful supply of local wool these natural resources allowed the industry to prosper. Historically Aubussons were woven by Flemish weavers who had relocated to this part of France and their skills were much favoured by the rich merchants of the area eventually finding favour with the French Court in the 17th century when it was granted the title Royal Manufactory by Louis XIV. Continued patronage by royalty and the aristocracy gained the style of Aubusson increasing fame in the 18th and 19th centuries and the designs are highly recognisable drawing from classical scenes known as ‘Le Rustique’ and ‘Pastoral’. Often used to ease diplomatic relations as gifts of finely woven aubusson or savonnerie rugs and tapestries the fame of the French weaving industry spread around the world.

Today Aubusson is enjoying a revival due to recognition by UNESCO which has granted it entry on the Intangible Cultural Heritage List! Since 2010 students are now able to gain hands on experience and learn about the art of tapestry weaving and design as a result.

Although generally thought of as flat-woven, aubusson style rugs were also produced with pile particularly from the Savonnerie school which is named after an old Soap Factory where the looms were installed – savon is French for soap. The Savonnerie school was established in the early 17th century on the Quai de Chaillot in what is now the 16th arrondissement of Paris. Here Savonnerie carpets were woven entirely under royal patronage by Kings Louis XIV to XVI and were therefore very exclusive and this led to the development of Aubussons which emulated the Savonnerie designs of this period.

Whilst there is still some production of these beautiful tapestries and carpets in France they tend to be beyond the average person’s pocket as labour costs in the EU far exceed the Far East and so it is fortunate for us that the Chinese have embraced the designs and increasingly produce similar pieces at up to a third of the cost. Still finely made by hand the Chinese Aubusson uses pure wool throughout and re-creates the historical designs of the 17th and 18th centuries using classical pastoral scenes. Antique Aubussons run into many thousands of pounds but fortunately the new Chinese Aubussons are still affordable and there is a selection available now at the Pars Rug Gallery.

These classical designs mainly use gentle colours and natural dyes: delicate shades of pink, sand and green are predominant. The classical French style with garlands, flowers, scenes from nature and romantic subjects set in Greco/Romano architectural backdrops bring a note of grandeur to the piece and in turn the room. You can see some of these beautiful rugs for sale at the Pars Rug Gallery where there is a selection ranging in size from 273cm x 366cm down to 122cm x 183cm. Generally aubussons are woven using wool on a wool or linen warp and some designs incorporate silk increasing the lustre and luxury of the piece. It is advisable to use a good quality underlay under these rugs to protect them and yourself against slippage and give greater comfort.

Also on sale exclusively at the Pars Rug Gallery in Romsey are a limited edition collection of pure silk aubusson style cushions with pure silk tassels – £160 inc vat.


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