finer carpet belongs to the Girdlers’ Company (Plate IV. fig. 8), and is of Persian design, into which are introduced the arms of the company, shields with eagles, and white panels with English letters, the monogram of Robert Bell the master in 1634, but this was made at Lahore to his order.
Before dealing with later phases of the carpet industry in England, mention may now be made of Spanish carpets, of European as distinct from Saracenic or Persian design; the making of them dates at least from the Spanish carpets. end of the 15th century or the beginning of the 16th century. It is only within recent years that specimens of them have been obtained for public collections, and at present little is known of the factories in Spain whence they came. A large and most interesting series is shown in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a portion of one of the earlier of the Spanish cut pile carpets in that museum is given in Plate IV. fig. 10. The inner repeating pattern has suggestions of a lingering Moorish influence, but a superior version of it with better definition is to be seen in extant bits of Spanish shuttle-woven silks of the 16th century. The border of distorted dragon-like creatures is of a Renaissance style, and this style is more pronounced in other Spanish carpets having borders of poorly treated Italian 16th-century pilaster ornament. Beside cut pile, many Spanish carpets of the 17th and 18th centuries have looped and flat surfaces, and bear Spanish names and inscriptions; many too are of needlework in tent or cross stitch.
Another interesting class of very fine pile carpets that has also become known comparatively recently to collectors is the so-called Polish carpets, generally made of silk pile for the ornament, which is distinctively Oriental, and of Polish carpets gold and silver thread textile for the ground, very much after the manner of early 17th-century Brusa fabrics. Many of these carpets are in the Czartoryski collection at Cracow. They are discussed by Dr Bode in his treatise on Oriental carpets already referred to. European coats of arms of the persons for whom they were made are often introduced into them, sometimes different in workmanship from that of the carpets, though there are specimens in which the workmanship is the same throughout. The details of their designs consist for the most part of arabesques and long curved serrated leaves similar to such as are commonly used in Rhodian pottery decoration of the 16th century, though more typical of those so frequent in 17th-century Turkish ornament. Various considerations lead to the conclusion that these so-called Polish carpets were probably made in either Constantinople or Damascus (tapete Damaschini frequently occur in Venetian inventories of the 16th century) rather than, as has been thought, by the Persian workmen employed at the Mazarski silk factory which lasted for a short period only during the 18th century at Sleucz in Poland.
The European carpet manufactory, of which a continuous history for some two hundred and fifty years is recorded with exceptional completeness, is that which has been maintained under successive regimes, royal, imperial Carpets made in France. and republican, in France—at the Hotel des Gobelins in Paris. Seventy years before its organization under Colbert in 1667 as a state manufactory (Manufacture Royale des Meubles de la Couronne), Henry IV. had founded royal art workshops for all sorts of decorative work, at the Louvre; and here in 1604 a workroom was established for making Oriental carpets by the side of that which existed for making tapis flamands. In 1610 letters patent were granted to the Sieur Fortier, who has been reputed to be the first inventor in France of the art of making in silk and wool real Turkey and other piled carpets with grounds of gold thread, which must have been sumptuous fabrics probably resembling the so-called Polish carpets of this date. Some ten years later it is recorded that Pierre Dupont and Simon Lourdet started a pile carpet (tapis veloutés) manufactory at Chaillot (Paris) in large premises which had been used for the manufacture of soap—whence the name of “Savonnerie.” To this converted manufactory were transferred in 1631 the carpet-makers from the Louvre, and under the direct patronage of the crown it continued its operations for many years at Chaillot. It was not until 1828 that the making of tapis de la Savonnerie (pile carpets of a fine velvety character) was transferred to the Hôtel des Gobelins. Here, in contradistinction to the Savonnerie, carpets are made others which, like those of Beauvais (where a manufactory of hangings and carpets was established by Colbert in 1664), are tapis ras or non-piled carpets, being of tapestry-weaving, as also are those made by old-established firms at Aubusson and at Felletin, where the manufacture was flourishing, at the former place in 1732 and at the latter in 1737.
Returning now to England, there are evidences towards the end of the 17th century, if not earlier, that Walloon and Flemish makers of Turkey pile carpets had settled and set up works in different parts of the country. A protective charter, for instance, was granted in 1701 by William III. to weavers in Axminster and Wilton. The ultimate celebrity of the pile carpet industry at Wilton was due mainly to the interest taken in it during the earlier part of the 18th century by Henry, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, who in the course of his travels abroad collected certain French and Walloon carpet-makers to work for him in Wiltshire—over them he put two Frenchmen, Antoine Dufossy and Pierre Jemale. More notable, however, than these is Pere Norbert, who naturalized himself as an Englishman, changed his name to Parisot, and started a manufactory of pile carpets and a training school in the craft at Fulham about 1751. In 1753 he wrote and published “An account of the new manufactory of Tapestry after the manner of that at the Gobelins, and of carpets after the manner of that at Chaillot (i.e. Savonnerie) now undertaken at Fulham by Mr Peter Parisot.” Two refugee French carpet-makers from the Savonnerie had arrived in London in 1750, and started weaving a specimen carpet in Westminster. Parisot, having found them out, induced the duke of Cumberland to furnish funds for their removal to better workrooms at Paddington. The carpet when finished was presented by the duke to the princess dowager of Wales. Parisot quarrelled with his two employees, enticed others to come over, and then removed the carpet works from Paddington to Fulham. A worker, J. Baptiste Grignon, writing to “Mr Parisot in Foulleme Manufactory,” mentions the marked preference “shown by the English court for velvet,” and how much a “chair-back he had worked in the manner of the Savonnerie had been admired.” Correspondence published in the Nouvelles Archives de l’art français (1878) largely relates to the efforts of the French government to stop the emigration to England of workers from the Gobelins and the Savonnerie. Parisot’s Fulham works were sold up in 1755. He then tried to start a manufactory at Exeter, but apparently without success, as in 1756 his Exeter stock was sold in the Great Piazza auction rooms, Covent Garden. Joseph Baretti (Dr Johnson’s friend), writing from Plymouth on the 18th of April 1760, alludes to his having that morning visited the Exeter manufactory of tapisseries de Gobelins “founded by a distinguished anti-Jesuit—the renowned Father Nobert.” Previously to this a Mr Passavant of Exeter had received in 1758 a premium from the Society of Arts of London for making a carpet in “imitation of those brought from the East and called Turky carpets.” Similar premiums had been awarded by the society in 1757 to a Mr Moore of Chiswell Street, Moorfields, and to a Mr Whitty of Axminster. In 1759 a society’s premium was won by Mr Jeffer of Frome. In the Transactions of the Society, vol. i., dated 1783, it is stated that by their rewards, the manufacture of “Turky carpets is now established in different parts of the kingdom, and brought to a degree of elegance and beauty which the Turky carpets never attained.” Such records as these convey a fair notion of the sporadic attempts which immediately preceded a systematic manufacture of pile carpets in this country. Whilst the Wilton industry survived, that actually
- The Royal Factory at Lahore was established by Akbar the Great in the 16th century.
- A wealthy serge-maker of Swiss nationality, who had been settled for some years in Exeter, and bought up the plant of Parisot’s Exeter works. (See Bulletin de la société de l’histoire de l’art français, p. 97, vol. 1875 to 1878.)