French Savonnerie Rugs
History of French Savonnerie Rugs
The Savonnerie carpet factory, located on the site of the present Musee d'Art Moderne, inherited its name from the soap making factory it took over at the behest of Louis XIII. From 1660 until 1743 Savonnerie was a manufacture royale, carrying out commissions for French Savonnerie rugs and carpets specifically designed for the Royal Palaces. In the 1770's, the tapestry looms at Aubusson in the Creuze Valley near Limoges were converted to produce flat-woven rugs and carpets under royal warrant. No one knows precisely when carpet weaving began in this area, but it is certain that tapestries were first woven there long before the Gothic era.
Many weavers who settled in France were Huguenots who had fled Spain during the Inquisition in the early sixteenth century. By issuing the edict of Nantes, Henry IV granted all non-Catholics freedom of worship, the re by protecting the carpet weavers in Aubusson. Aubusson weavers became the finest craftsmen in the world. Louis XIV's influential Prime Minister Colbert established the long and hard apprenticeship necessary to obtain the title " Master of Tapestry". Even today, the center in Aubusson, under control of the French Ministry of Arts, is busily producing carpets and rugs of the most exquisite quality. Antique Savonnerie and Aubusson rugs and carpets are considered to be among the finest examples of carpet production undertaken in Europe over the past 350 years.