Thursday, August 10, 2017

Decorating With French Tapestry Upholstered Settees, Sofas, and Canapes

I have a great fondness for the linen and burlap upholstered French sofas and canapes that are associated with the simplistic "French Country" style of current decorating tastes. However, this blog post spotlights the style of upholstering these lovely French seats in tapestry. 

As building architecture improved, the need of using wall tapestries for essential warmth wasn't as necessary. Tapestry manufacturers now turned their attention to the production of tapestry material for upholstering furniture. It became the trend of the day to cover furniture and whole sets that included chairs and sofas were available. The king would purchase several sets a year for giving as gifts to visiting dignitaries. 

Original Louis XVI sofas for ceremonial rooms were giltwood affairs, upholstered in Gobelin, Aubusson and Beauvais tapestry. However, today I believe these tapestry covered Louis XVI pieces look stunning in French Provincial as well as Gustavian interiors. Like crystal chandeliers, the elegance of them looks fabulous when mixed with more rustic elements. I am in a dilemma myself, torn between reupholstering a newly acquired French settee for my front hall in linen or with an old tapestry I have in storage. 

I hope you enjoy the images of these exquisite tapestry covered French sofas, canapes and settees. There are tips below for creating your own "piece" of the look.

via Pinterest
Castle of Digoine in Palinges, Burgundy

The history of French furniture is closely connected with the history of tapestry since after a time it was used as an upholstery fabric. For centuries tapestries were made in Holland, but during the 17th and 18th centuries France produced some of Europe’s finest examples.

Château de Digoine

Francis I soon became unwilling to buy all his tapestry pieces from the looms of Flanders so he started a factory in 1531 at Fontainebleau. The first workers were Flemish weavers who were brought over to teach the craft to Frenchmen. In 1603 a new factory was started at Paris, in the workshop of the Gobelin family. In 1667 the factory became the property of the Crown, and most artistic and elegant productions were made there.

Gobelin tapestry woven between 1711 and 1715

Early Beauvais tapestry
From 1664 the Beauvais tapestry manufacture was the second in importance, after the Gobelin tapestry workshop.

The third royal tapestry manufacturer was in Aubusson. The golden age of  tapestry was under Louis XIV for it was during his reign that the royal factory at Aubusson was at its zenith. The tapestries sent out from this factory were as close as possible to painted pictures.

Few Gobelin produced tapestry seats remain today. I did find this sofa which belongs to the Frick Collection.

The Gobelins began to produce tapestry for sofas and settees only during the last half of the eighteenth cen­tury. Originally the use of tapestry as upholstery was undertaken in hopes of bolstering lagging finances due to the competition of embroidery coming from England and peoples excitement over the novelty of English wallpaper.The very first pieces made were for four chairs and a sofa, in 1748.

Louis XVI style giltwood and Beauvais tapestry upholstered sofa. From this latter factory came those coverings, with designs after Boucher, set in wooden frames of the richest carving and gilt.These furniture tapestries immediately became popular and made Gobelin and Beauvais wealthy.

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This gorgeous sofa is covered in Beauvais tapestry.

French sofa circa 1706-76 upholstered in tapestry from Beauvais factory.

A carved giltwood and Beauvais tapestry upholstered sofa. The word tapestry derives from old French tapisserie, meaning "to cover with heavy fabric, to carpet"

19th Century French Louis XV Carved Gilt Canapé with Aubusson Tapestry

The Aubusson tapestry manufactory was a smaller workshop than that in Beauvais but they were able to compete equally with Beauvais as well as the chief tapestry producers in France, the Royal Manufactory of Gobelins.

Tapestry upholstered salon suite and wallhangings in the Tapestry Room at Osterley Park

Louis XVI style cream painted canape with Aubusson upholstery.

People had started to use wallpaper to cover their walls by the middle of the 18th century but couldn't resist tapestry upholstered sofas, settees, and canapes.

A Louis XVI painted canape upholstered in tapestry.

A Directoire painted and gilt sofa upholstered with Louis XVI, Aubusson, genre tapestry, circa 1780.

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I am especially drawn to French Verdure tapestries so it's not surprising that this canape upholstered in Verdure leaves me breathless.

French Walnut Louis XV CanapĂ© Covered in 17th Century 
French VerdureTapestry. Heart be still!!

An 18th Century French Louis XV sofa upholstered in a Greek mythology tapestry.

It became very fashionable to commission a salon suite where the fabulous focal point settee was enhanced by the other pieces in the set, all upholstered with the same tapestry fabric. This is a Louis XV suite comprised of a canape and four fauteuils.

A suite of Louis XV giltwood and Aubusson tapestry upholstered furniture, circa 1760.

A beautifully carved giltwood salon suite circa 1870 with a canape and four fauteuils, each upholstered in an Aubusson pastoral scene.

These salon furniture sets seemed to match the grandeur of the elaborate architectural interior decorating of the time.

Aubusson tapestry covered settee.

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Ornate gilt settee upholstered in tapestry.

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18th century French Louis XV tapestry covered pearwood sofa.

This French settee is covered in a gorgeous tapestry and is right at home in a more rustic setting.

This tapestry upholstered sofa is Louis XIV, circa 1710.

The thing I love most about tapestries, whether they are on the wall or used as upholstery fabric, is the fact that they are so textural and add depth and warmth to a space. Is this not a fabulous settee? The French screen in the background isn't too shabby either.

A 19th century tapestry covered settee with stunning carving is perfect for a period room but can also bring warmth and dimension to the clean lines of a modern space as well.

My word! Look at the beautiful carving on this tapestry covered sofa.

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This image shows how well these exquisite tapestry upholstered French sofas look when used in a rustic French country look setting.

Linda Keenan

Transforming any room into a luxurious space with old-school charm and sophistication is easy with a huge tapestry on the wall or a tapestry covered suite of furniture. But usually that is not easy to accomplish as these pieces can be very hard to find and worse they can be way out of many budgets. There is still a way to have the look and you can see it here in this picture. A creamy linen upholstered sofa or settee with tapestry fragment covered pillows can be a lovely focal point for an old world style space.

E Alexander Designs

You can scour antique malls, auctions etc for pieces of tapestry and make yourself some pillows or buy them already made from decor stores.

Tossed on chairs, settees, canapes, or sofas these tapestry pillows bring instant old world charm.

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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

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