Belgium has a significant and modern production of power-loomed carpets. The majority of these are designed to seem like hand-knotted Near Eastern rugs. Flanders has been known for its tapestries and lace since the thirteenth century. Belgium is a country in continental Europe that is located in the northwestern part of the continent. Belgium was known as Belgica during the Roman Empire, and it was home to various tribes who heroically battled against Gaius Julius Caesar (100-44 BCE).
Before recovering independence in 1830, Belgium was ruled by foreign armies of nations and kingdoms such as the Burgundians, Spain, Austria, France and the Netherlands.
Belgium became a thriving hub of commerce, handicrafts and culture throughout the Middle Ages. Belgium was famed for its agricultural and animal husbandry, particularly for its high-quality wool. Sheeps' wool was becoming more popular for weaving and embroidery. Weaving was done at monasteries and by women during this time. The Belgian weaving business grew substantially in the twelfth century, and it began to export its wares by sea throughout Europe.
Weavers developed tapestries as wall hangings around the thirteenth century, and the county of Flanders became a leader in creating wall hanging handicrafts.
Tapestry manufacturers in Belgium grew in importance by the mid-fifteenth century and were recognised by European monarchies and nobles. Belgium benefited greatly from tapestries. Tapestry patterns featured various subjects and locations, including Gothic, biblical, mythological, historical (including battles), children at play, Millefleurs, romantic and hunting scenes.
In the early sixteenth century, Brussels became the primary hub for tapestry weaving, and it remained so until the eighteenth century. Flanders and the cities of Oudenaarde, Tournai, and Arras (now in France) were critical industrial centres. In the antique trade, weavings manufactured in Flanders are known as Flemish tapestries.
Knotted piles and hand-tufted carpets have been made since the mid-eighteenth century and are still made today. During the nineteenth century, the Royal Carpet Manufactory in Tournai's ancient city produced hand-knotted carpets on a small scale.
Machine-made rug production began during this period and continues to be a significant domestic and international industry.
Modern styles made by Belgian designers include Oriental rugs, European, Arts and Crafts, Art Deco and other contemporary styles. Cities like Brussels, Saint-Nicolas, Bruges, Verviers, and Oudenaarde continue to produce tapestries and carpets.
The country of France is located in Western Europe. The country's name comes from the Latin word Francia, which means "land of the Franks." Clovis I (r. 481-509 CE), the first King of the Franks, conquered the French land (Gaul), established Paris as his capital, and unified tribes throughout Western Europe under Frankish control in the late fifth century CE. Following the death of King Clovis, France was divided into smaller kingdoms and faced multiple foreign invasions over the ages.
Charlemagne (r. 768-814) is a historical figure in France who solidified power by uniting the kingdoms of the provinces and restoring the Frankish Empire's grip over central Europe. During his reign, Charlemagne is credited with founding a judicial system and promoting a literary and architectural revolution. Throughout the Middle Ages, future French kings would continue Charlemagne's commitment to the arts and sciences. By the seventeenth century, the Kingdom of France had established itself as Europe's cultural leader and a global colonial empire.
The Sun King, Louis XIV (r. 1643-1715), was famed for his lavish preferences in art and luxury. He also refined and redefined high art in home furnishings and décor in France during his lengthy reign. Advances in the creation of tapestries, furniture, paintings, clocks, candleholders, porcelains, floor coverings and many other ornamental goods were developed under his royal command. The Gobelins Royal Manufactory in Paris and the Beauvais Manufactory in northern France were both patrons of tapestry weaving. During this time, tapestries were the best, most costly and most stunning wall decorations in Europe.
Louis XIV carpets, like Louis XIII carpets, were made to exacting standards in terms of pattern, colours and weaving technique. Thirteen carpets were manufactured particularly for the Galerie d'Apollon beginning in 1665, while another ninety-three carpets were created for the Louvre Palace's Grande Galerie. These carpets, designed by the king's famous painter Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), are the most precious French art to be commissioned in the world of carpets and have considerable decorative value.
The French Bourbon monarchy oversaw the weaving of Louis XV and Louis XVI carpets, maintaining the tradition established during the previous two reigns. During his reign, Louis XIV bestowed the title of Royal Manufactory on the Savonnerie and Aubusson rugs, two of his most prominent carpet weaving centres. By this proclamation, the monarchy commissioned and designed all pile and flatwoven carpets and tapestries for royal residences. However, before the French Revolution in 1789, all carpet production in the country was ceased.
During the Directoire and Consulate periods (1795-1804), production at the Aubusson and Savonnerie workshops gradually resumed, with the output known as Directoire Carpets, and grew under Emperor Napoleon I. (r. 1804-1815).
During the Bourbon Restoration (1815-1830), Louis XVIII (r. 1814, 1815-1824) and Charles X (r. 1824-1830) continued to use the previous monarchs' great design patterns for carpet weaving inspiration. Louis-(r. Philippe's 1830-1848) and Napoleon III's (r. 1852-1870) eras are attributed with a major carpet revival that stressed attractive new designs and unique tonalities.
Carpets by Charles X, Louis-Philippe, and Napoleon III became immensely popular worldwide, and many of these items ended up in European and American houses. French floor coverings had commercial success far into the early twentieth century.
Architecture, decorative arts, clothes, jewellery, interior design, paintings, posters, furniture and floor coverings were all influenced by the Art Nouveau (new art) movement, which began in the 1890s. Nature and fantastical motifs combined French rococo and Japanese-inspired art in this movement, which began in Paris.
During this time, Art Nouveau became trendy in Europe and America, and carpet weavers in French studios adapted the style.
The Art Nouveau movement was followed by the Art Deco movement, which began in France as well. Modernity and refinement in design were hallmarks of Art Deco. During the 1920s and 1930s, the style was popular worldwide, and it was used in architecture, decorative arts, jewellery, interior design, furniture and floor coverings. Simple geometric or Cubist themes dominated the designs, and carpets in this style were frequently woven without borders.
Art Deco carpets were designed by notable French artists such as Ivan Da Silva Bruhns (1881-1980) and Louis Paul Jean Goulden (1878-1946) and are still in demand and value in the trade today.
The craftsmanship, imaginative motifs, and bright natural-dyed hues of early French carpets and tapestries have earned them international recognition. These paintings are now housed in museums, institutes and private collections around the world. Savonnerie and Aubusson style carpets are regarded as some of the most opulent floor coverings in the vintage trade, according to interior designers and consumers.
The first hand-knotted rug in England was made in 1570. Turkish designs were copied in the majority of early hand-knotted and embroidered rugs. On a flax substrate, several early carpets were hand-knotted. Armorial bearings were commissioned on early rugs. Heavy, flatwoven carpets were made at Kidderminster (Worcestershire) and Wilton in the seventeenth century (Wiltshire). In 1720, Wilton established looms for weaving hand-knotted rugs based on Brussels models. Thomas Whitty began weaving hand-knotted rugs in Axminster in the late eighteenth century. Adam and Greco-Roman elements were used in the designs.
Hand-knotted carpet manufacture fell in the nineteenth century as power-loomed tufted carpet production grew. England (Great Britain) is a part of the United Kingdom, an island nation off the northwest coast of mainland Europe and east of Ireland. The United Kingdom is made up of England in the south, Wales in the west, Scotland in the north, and Northern Ireland, which is located in the northeast corner of the island of Ireland.
Until the mid-fourteenth century, England was predominantly an agricultural country and demand for rugs was generally low.
After her marriage to King Edward I in the thirteenth century, it is thought that Queen Eleanor of Castile (1241-1290) brought countless Spanish carpets to England (r. 1272-1307). Many of these carpets were unique to Granada, Spain, and they piqued interest in England because piled carpets with rich design and colour were virtually unknown in this period.
Rugs began to be imported from Anatolia (Turkey), Persia and workshops in continental Europe during the reign of King Henry VIII (r. 1509-1547). Rugs were still considered rare and expensive luxuries, but churches and royal palaces were rapidly acquiring them.
Hans Holbein the Younger famously depicted Henry VIII standing on an Ushak rug during this time (1497-1543).
Embroidery has been an English pastime for female aristocrats and nuns since the tenth century CE. Weavers were imported to England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603), potentially from as far away as Persia, from established weaving centres in France and mainland Europe. English carpets were woven using Oriental rug-making processes, but the designs and colours were generally based on English embroidery styles.
Needlepoint weavings grew popular during this time and were commonly manufactured in homes as floor coverings, furniture, woven bags and adornment.
Surprisingly, a pivotal moment in the growth of the English carpet weaving business occurred in France. Because of England's religious tolerance toward Protestants, many highly talented weavers and knowledgeable Protestant workers at Aubusson and Savonnerie Royal Manufactory immigrated to England in 1685 after King Louis XIV (r. 1643-1715) revoked the Edict of Nantes.
During King James II of England's reign (r. 1685-1688), French-born inhabitants were free to set up looms and pursue their profession; many weavers settled in southern England and contributed to developing a high-quality carpet weaving industry.
The Wilton Royal Carpet Manufactory, founded in 1655 under the patronage of the Earl of Pembroke, had grown to be exceedingly profitable by the early eighteenth century and was granted its first Royal Charter under King William III (r. 1689-1702).
The factory was protected from competition by the Royal Charter, which was given in 1699. This strategy, which was also utilised in France, allowed companies to maintain high beauty and weaving quality standards for decades. It also prevented experienced and gifted workers from being poached by other weaving businesses. Wilton carpets were popular, and the protection from competition stimulated demand for Wilton carpets in England and abroad.
As demand grew throughout the Empire in the mid-eighteenth century, more carpet weaving firms emerged in England.
Axminster Carpet Manufactory, Exeter Manufactory, Fulham Carpet Manufactory, Kidderminster Carpets, Moor-Fields Carpet Manufactory and Paddington Carpet Workshop were among the commercial enterprises that arose. Both Thomas Whiny (of Axminster) and Thomas Moore (of Moorfields) received awards in the Royal Society of Arts carpet manufacturing competition in 1757. The competition was meant to establish a high design standard for carpets woven in England.
English carpets were still being commissioned for the aristocracy and nobility of England and abroad at the start of the nineteenth century.
At the same time, machine-made rugs became increasingly popular among the middle class, making them more affordable and accessible. After a severe fire damaged its weaving operations, the successful Axminster Manufactory closed in 1835. The Wilton Royal Carpet Manufactory took over the factory's surviving looms and relocated many Axminster weavers to Wilton.
The demand for English carpets began to decline in the mid-nineteenth century as the demand for European and Oriental carpets began to increase. The Arts and Crafts movement, pioneered by William Morris, resurrected the handmade carpet business in England by the late 1870s.
Morris' carpet designs for his company, Morris & Company, were very innovative and were known for combining English floral themes with Oriental-inspired designs. His business would make carpets well into the twentieth century.
Handwoven carpets, which began to be made in Ireland in the late 1800s, competed with Morris & Company carpets. A Scottish textile manufacturer, Alexander Morton & Company, built looms in the primarily agricultural county of Donegal to provide a less-expensive alternative to William Morris's popular Arts and Crafts Carpets.
The British government funded Donegal carpets and cheaper Irish labour was exploited to produce good quality carpets, colouring and patterns. As a result, Donegal carpet production was a huge success, attracting well-known designers to contribute to the designs and motifs.
Early English carpets are valuable and sought after by interior designers and their discerning clients around the world. The foundation of most English carpets is cotton, while some early specimens have a wool or hemp foundation; a wool foundation with a hemp, linen, or jute weft was sometimes used. Wool makes up the pile. The knot used is the Turkish (symmetric) knot.