This section is from the book "Tapestries; Their Origin, History And Renaissance", by George Leland Hunter. Also available from Amazon: Tapestries; Their Origin, History, And Renaissance.
The tapestry part of the plant was not created new or imported from Flanders. It was a combination of the various tapestry works described above - those of Planche and the Comans, of the Trinité and the Louvre, and of Maincy, from which, after the fall and disgrace of Foucquet, came Lebrun to satisfy Louis XIV's desire to emulate the example of decorative magnificence set by his financial minister.
The preliminaries took some time. In 1662 Louis XIV bought the Gobelin property. In the succeeding five years he added to it and erected buildings to accommodate the new royal enterprise. The different tapestry plants were assembled there by degrees. The first heads of the high warp shops were Jean Jans, the father, 1662-1668; Henri Laurent (from the Louvre), 1662-1669; Jean Le-févre, 1662-1700, the elder but son of the Pierre Lefévre, director of the tapestry works in Florence, who in 1647 had been called back to Paris to reorganise the looms there for Mazarin.
When Laurent died in 1669, his shop was discontinued. The shop of Jans, who came originally from Audenarde, was continued by his son of the same name, 1668-1723; by Jean-Jacques Jans, 1723-1731; by Michel Audran, 1732-1771; by Jean Audran, 1771-1794. After the Revolution, day work having been substituted for piece work, the identity of the contractors is of less importance. The shop of Lefévre was continued by his son of the same name, 1699-1736; by Mathieu Monmerqué, 1736-1749; by Pierre-François Cozette, 1749-1794.
The first low warp shop organised under the management of Jean Delacroix 1662-1712, was in 1712 merged with the one organised by Jean-Baptiste Mozin 1667-1693, and continued by Dominique Delacroix 1693-1737. Another shop united to that of Delacroix in 1724, was that of Souet and Delafraye, 1693-1699, continued by Jean Souet, 1699-1724. The shop organised by Jean Delafraye, 1699-1730, continued by Mathieu Monmerqué, 1730-1735, and by Pierre, François Cozette, 1735-1749, in 1737 absorbed that of Delacroix. In 1749, Cozette transferred his efforts from low warp to high warp looms and, as shown above, assumed charge of the old Lefèvre high warp shop. Jacques Neilson, 1749-1788, took his place in the low warp shop and two years later, in 1751, absorbed the shop founded by Etienne Leblond, 1701-1727, and continued by Etienne-Claude Leblond, 1727-1751. Neilson was succeeded by Michel-Henry Cozette, 1788-1794. These are the men directly responsible for the execution of the work at the Gobelins, and their names are signed (See chapter IX (Designs And Cartoons. Portraits In Tapestries. Counterfeit Arras. Animals In Tapestries. Verdures)) to many of the tapestries.
The organisation of the Gobelins, from 1662 to 1667, owed everything to the energetic care and forethought of Louis XIV's great minister Colbert. He was the moving spirit behind it all, and he saw that the sinews of art in the form of money were not lacking. The workmen received quarters on the premises, together with a small garden, that is still one of the attractions tending to reconcile them to small wages. The different shop managers worked each on his own account. The Crown supplied them with wools, silks, gold and silver tinsel, the cost of which is retained out of the finished tapestries paid for at a rate fixed in advance. The shop managers were not, however, restricted to work for the Crown. They were allowed to accept commissions from dealers and from individuals. They paid their men by the piece at a rate varying for the different portions of a tapestry, according to the difficulty of weaving and the skill required.
For the supplying of new tapestry designs, Charles Lebrun had many capable assistants, at the head Adam François Vandermeulen who entered the service of Louis XIV in 1664 and remained there until his death in 1691. A memorandum, dated 1691, gives us the details of the collaboration on the Royal Residences: "M. Yvart the father painted most of the large figures, the rugs and the draperies; M. Baptiste (Monnoyer) the flowers and fruits; the late M. Boulle the animals and the birds; M. Anguier the architecture; the late M. Vandermeulen the small figures and part of the landscapes; MM. Genouels and Baudoin the rest of the landscapes." But no matter how many assistants Lebrun employed he was always master and the inspiration and style were always personally his own.
Plate no. 165. Air, a Louis XIV tapestry after Lebrun in the French National Collection. One of the set of four Elements: Earth pictured by Cybele and Ceres on a lion-drawn car, Water by Amphitrite and Neptune, Fire by Vulcan at the Forge, Air by Junon whose attendant Iris displays the King's shield to the peacock and other birds. The flattery heaped upon Louis XIV by the Story of the King was as nothing compared with the flattery of the Elements. Note particularly the emblems in the corners.
The studies of these artists are preserved in the Museum of Versailles. The Royal Residences show the 12 palaces that the King liked best, used to background hunting scenes, promenades, cavalcades, balls - scenes appropriate to the time of year - framed on each side by columns of pilasters, while in the foreground, valets in the royal livery spread rich stuffs over the balustrades. During the King's life it was rewoven at the Gobelins more often than any other set. It appears in the Louis XIV Inventory ten times, in 88 pieces - seven complete sets with some to spare. The palaces pictured are the Louvre, the Palais-Royal, Madrid, Versailles, Saint-Germain, Fontainebleau, Vincennes, Marimont, Chambord, the Tuileries, Blois, Monceaux.
The Elements and the Seasons, each in four pieces, take one back to the days of Comans, Planche, and Mortlake, or even earlier. The woven frames are sumptuous and there are Latin captions with allegorical emblems in the Renaissance fashion. The Elements in four pieces with four narrow panels (entrefenêtres) to match was especially successful, being reproduced six times at the Gobelins in the XVII century and often at Brussels Aubusson, and Felletin (See plate no. 165).