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Cleaning 700 Square Feet of Precious Tapestry


Via / Kim Sadler

Weavers conserve a tapestry at the Gobelins Manufactory. Photo courtesy of the Gobelins Manufactory

Two masterpieces from the Sun King’s collection are given new life through cleaning and conservation.

In early modern Europe, tapestries were the ultimate expression of princely status and taste. Costly in time, money, and talent, they were designed by the most famous artists of the day and meticulously woven by hand from wool, silk, and threads of precious metals.

Louis XIV built the French royal tapestry collection to dizzying heights, amassing over 2,600 examples—a story told in the exhibition Woven Gold: Tapestries of Louis XIV, which evokes the splendor of the Sun King’s once-great collection.

Made of natural fibers, tapestries naturally attract dust and dirt as they age. In preparation for the exhibition, the Getty–with generous support from the Hearst Foundations, Eric and Nancy Garen, and the Ernest Lieblich Foundation–sponsored the cleaning and conservation of two tapestries, The Entry of Alexander into Babylon (shown below after conservation) and the Chateau of Monceau / Month of December, which are now on loan from the Mobilier National in Paris.

Totaling over 700 square feet combined, the two monumental hangings were sent for cleaning to the De Wit Royal Manufacturers of Tapestry, a 125-year-old laboratory in Mechelen, Belgium, that cleans nearly all of the tapestries of the Mobilier National before conservation treatment.

tapestry_sun_king_03

The Entry of Alexander into Babylon, about 1665–probably by 1676, made at the Royal Factory of Furniture to the Crown at the Gobelins Manufactory. Design by Charles Le Brun; cartoon for the vertical-warp loom by Henri Testelin; weaving by Jean Jans the Elder, Jean Jans the Younger, or Jean Lefebvre. Wool, silk, gilt metal- and silver-wrapped thread, 194 7/8 x 318 7/8 in. Le Mobilier National. Image © Le Mobilier National. Photo by Lawrence Perquis.

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