Royal Factory of Furniture to the Crown at the Gobelins Manufactory

Datesfounded 1662
RolesArtist, Manufacturer

In 1662 Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV's minister of finance, took over the Gobelins manufactory on behalf of the Crown; its official title became Manufacture Royale des Meubles de la Couronne(Royal Factory of Furniture to the Crown). The first director, Charles Le Brun, orchestrated numerous craftsmen, including tapestry weavers, painters, bronze-workers, furniture-makers, and gold- and silversmiths, who supplied objects exclusively for the king's palaces or as royal gifts. As a result of financial difficulties, the factory was forced to close in 1694, reopening in 1699 but only to produce tapestries.

The tapestries woven at the Gobelins were the finest of any produced in Europe in the 1600s and 1700s. Cartoons were ordered from leading painters such as Le Brun, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Charles Coypel, and François Boucher. Skilled weavers were paid according to the difficulty of the work; those entrusted with heads and flesh tones received the highest wages.

During the reign of Louis XIV, tapestries celebrated the glory of the Sun King, but eighteenth-century subjects were lighter and more frivolous. The most important innovation in eighteenth-century tapestries was the addition of alentours (borders). These wide frames depicted flowers and architectural devices surrounding a central scene. Tapestries also imitated the effects of painting, and hundreds of new dyes were developed to create a range of tonal effects. Unfortunately, the ravages of light have now destroyed most of these subtle effects.