Three carpets of this exact design by Pierre-Josse Perrot were delivered to the garde-meuble de la Couronne. The first, listed on 28 February 1735 under the number '318' and measuring 5.98m. by 4.80m., was commissioned for the château de la Muette:-
The second carpet, numbered '325', was delivered on the 18 February 1740 for the salle à manger of the King at the château de Choisy. In 1789, the carpet was borrowed for State occasions, for instance being employed when Louis XVI travelled to Brest, and it is fair to assume therefore that much wear and tear must have resulted. By 1798/9, the colours of the carpet were considered bien passés and the carpet was eventually sold to the marchand Bourdillon on 8 thermidor an 5 (1797).
The third carpet was delivered on the 19 September 1769 by Gibert pour servir au bas de la chapelle du roy à Fontainebleau quand sa majesté y entend l'office, and this carpet would in all probability have been rarely used. In 1789, it was described as being très beau and although sold during the Directoire period to Chapeaurouge, in 1806 he offered it back to Napoleon, who accepted it.
Still très frais and retaining its écusson de France au milieu de fleur de lys, the carpet was purchased by the garde-meuble and arrived at the château de Fontainebleau, where it remains to this day, on 30 december 1842 under the number '3795'.
Although only three carpets from this cartoon were delivered to the garde-meuble, it is important not to ignore the orders of the administration Royale. Whilst it is highly improbable that a private individual would have commissioned a carpet emblazoned with the Royal arms in this way, it is certainly possible, if not probable, that a Cathedral, the foreign Ministry or an Order such as those of the Saint Lazare or Saint-Esprit could have done so.
This hypothesis is reinforced by the fact that four other carpets from this exact cartoon, excluding this one and that at Fontainebleau, are known:-
-one is at the château de Chambord, France.
-a second is in the Cleveland Museum of Art (inv. 50.8; 544 by 609cm.), illustrated in Selected works of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Catalogue, 1966, no.186 and P. Verlet, The Savonnerie - the James A de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, Paris 1982, fig.58, p.103.
-a third is in the salon Huet of the musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris (inv.234; 570 by 600cm.), illustrated in M. Jarry, The Carpets of the Manufacture de la Savonnerie, Leigh-on-Sea, 1966, p.39, fig.46 and N. Gasc and G. Mabille, The Nissim de Camondo Museum, Paris 1991,
details pp.21, 51, 52 and 88,
-and the fourth was sold from the collection of Karl Lagerfeld, Christie's Monaco, 28 April 2000, lot 70. Reputedly from the duc de Lorges' collection, it was formerly owned by the baron Gourgand at the château La Grange.
Pierre-Josse Perrot is recorded as a designer for the Royal ateliers in the field of interior design, tapestry and in particular, carpets. The earliest mention of his name is at the Gobelins Tapestry workshop in 1715, while the earliest carpet designed by him, in conjunction with Blain de Fontenay the Younger, is dated 1724. By the time this carpet was designed, he was the leading designer at the Savonnerie, producing cartoons which were re-woven a number of times due to their popularity with the King. The designs for most of the carpets produced at the Savonnerie between 1735 and 1750 can be attributed to him. Typical are the bold but controlled scrolling acanthus leaves executed in bright colours on a dark ground. They succeed similar motifs of the Louis XIV period executed en grisaille. Also characteristic are the dense floral swags. Whenever Perrot was associated with a design that included figural scenes, these were executed by another artist; his mastery was of the abstract and floral.
Such was the popularity of these designs that many were re-woven well after the death of Louis XV, one being woven a total of 23 times, the last time being in 1790 (P. Verlet, op. cit., p.274). Occasionally, minor alternations were made in the motifs, such as substituting a fleur-de-lys for the entwined double L monogram, or slightly truncating the corners for a particular room, as on the Nissim de Camondo version of the present carpet. Only rarely was there a major change, but an example of this is a version of the present carpet, which substitues the central motif with a radiating fan-motif very similar to that of another of Perrot's cartoons.
Eagles's wings, sometimes referred to as the Wings of Fame, were a popular motif in Savonnerie carpets. Probably derived from a Roman decorative motif, they were used by Borromini in the decoration of the Gallery of the Palazzo Pamphili, Rome, circa 1650. Subsequently first employed in carpet designs by Charles Le Brun, including some of the Grand Galerie du Louvre carpets, this motif was seized upon by Robert de Cotte and Blain de Fontenay in designs for carpets for the chapel at Versailles (ibid, figs. 142, 159 and 160, pp.229, 255 and 256). Perrot adopted the motif extensively, not only in the series of carpets under discussion here, but also for the magnificent carpet woven for the nave of the Chapel at Fontainebleau in 1737 (ibid, fig 147, p.236).
The quality of weave of the present carpet, with such details as the roundness of the central Arms and the freshness of colour all indicate that this was one of the earlier examples to be woven of this design. Of interest are the black wefts which are used once every 20 wefts, which were used to help the weaver, and which can be seen in the short kilim strip at each end. Its excellent condition and the absence of any alterations to the Royal emblems suggests that it may well have already left the Royal collections before the Revolution.
A MAGNIFICENT LOUIS XV SAVONNERIE CARPET
The shaded brown field with a blue orb with the Royal arms of France ringed by a collar of the order of Saint Esprit, radiating eagles' wings above flanking the Royal French crown, ringed by a band of scrolling acanthus and suspended military trophies, in a medium blue border with molded gold surround linking spiralling dense acanthus cornerpieces, each issuing a cornucopia from a rosette, the center of each side with shell cartouches flanked by floral swags, in an outer molded ball and acanthus surround
18ft. 8in. x 19ft. 10in. (567cm. x 603cm.)
F.M. Ricci, Quelques chefs-d'oeuvre de La Collection Djahanguir Riahi, Paris, 2000, pp.169-71 (illustrated).
Almost certainly commissioned by the Administration Royale.
Anonymous sale ('The Property of a Nobleman'), sold Christie's London, 9 June 1994, lot 136 (£1,321,500; $1,995,465).