But though the names of embroiderers in the sixteenth century are rare, a few may here still be quoted, in addition to those already mentioned : -
1502. Jehan of Brussels. - Jehan Perrault, of Aniboise, who, towards the middle of the century, executed the fine " Ecce Homo " in the Lyons Museum. 1568. Jaspart Dufoss?, of Lille. 1596. Pierre Baltus, of the same place.
We all the more gladly take these last names from M. Houdoy's work as they are a reply to a statement made by M. Francisquc Michel. In his "Recherches sur les etoffes de soie," this learned writer says: "France, of whom we are the sons, was never famous for its embroideries, whereas those of Rou-mania were celebrated." So that when he finds the expression "broderie de France," he sees in it a Byzantine work. But we believe, on the contrary, that we are in a position to claim for France, and especially for Burgundy, a supremacy in the arts which must have soon caused to be forgotten the cold and formal works of the Byzantine schools. So far as concerns the sixteenth century, the author himself supplies an argument in support of our opinion, for he mentions Adam Ardel, "brodeur fort renomme entre ceux de son etat," who perished at Lagny, the victim of religious dissensions.
We may therefore at the period of the Renaissance distinguish some principal schools. Of these the oldest in origin is that derived from Oriental works. Then comes the Italian school, characterised by the style and nature of its subjects, and especially by the marvellous elegance of its arabesques distinguished above all other triumphs of the needle by their gold in relief wrought with a most exquisite art. We have, lastly, the French school with its realistic tendencies. To it are due, not only the scenes of private life with portraits, spoken of above, but also tapestries and furniture in which events of sacred and profane history are travestied by figures dressed in the garb of the epoch, and often arranged in two series one above the other: the range of subjects extending from the fabliaux and scenes from the Old Testament down to contemporary festivities, the chase and balls, such as are supplied by the anonymous painters of the time of Clouet.
But a real difficulty is felt in establishing some tangible line of demarcation between the products of the close of the sixteenth, and the opening of the following century. In the first of these epochs, Italy was entering on its period of decline, while France was still animated by the full spirit of the Renaissance. It is at all events certain, that the reign of Louis XIII. was a glorious era for French embroidery. Not only was the fashion continued of producing figures in portraits in needlework, as in the previous century, but a fresh development was given to floral and arabesque ornament.
Red velvet hunting' hood, with nn ornament embroidered in gold. Sixteenth Century. (Collection of M. Ephruesi).
It would suffice here to recall the sumptuous religious ornaments, sent to the Exhibition of Costume by M. Gauchez, and MM. Tassinari and Chatel, if history itself did not come to our aid. Does not Andre Favyn in his "Theatre de l'honneur," enthusiastically describe the ornaments of admirable richness ordered by Louis XIII. for the Holy Sepulchre, and which had been executed by Alexandre Paynet, embroiderer to the King, the Queen, and Monsieur, near Saint-Honore?
There is also in the Lyons Museum the precious purse for corporals embroidered in silk and gold, executed by Pierre Vigier in 1621, a real masterpiece, worthy to compare with the very best productions of the sixteenth century.
Flowers, in a grandiose style, interpreted rather than copied from nature, entwined in foliage, woven into wreaths and mingled with ornaments in relief of gold and silver, among which sport birds and insects, all this becomes in some respects the characteristic of the epoch, and one of the causes of the noble aspect of decoration. Such floral ornamentation we have already met on the furniture, and shall again find on the works of the goldsmith, the enameller, and others. In fact, this incursion of the French artists into the domain of nature, had opened a fresh future for French industry itself, and everyone now eagerly took part in realising and developing the idea. Gaston, Duke of Orleans, established hot-houses at the Luxembourg, and soon after laid out at Rlois a true botanic garden, destined to supply the needle with fresh forms and richer tints. There presently began to appear choice subjects in such numbers, that, to prevent their perishing before art had time to benefit by them, the Prince commissioned the talented painter, N. Robert, to perpetuate by designs, in folio on vellum, all the new plants as they grew up in his gardens. These designs ho paid for at the enormous price of 100 livres each.
After the death of Gaston, Colbert did not hesitate to secure for the crown the collection of vellums, that had already become very considerable. He at the same time induced Louis XIV. to create in favour of Robert, the office of miniature-painter in ordinary to the king. The collection had been begun about the year 1640. Becoming an object of special care and interest to Fagon, first physician to the king, it increased rapidly by means of the works of the first painters. At the death of Louis XIV. it passed from the private cabinet into the library of the Louvre, then, in 1794, into the museum of natural history, where it became a real monument, the botany alone occupying more than sixty-four folio volumes.
It will not be a matter of astonishment to learn that under Louis XIV., the embroiderers attached to the royal manufactories of furniture for the crown, covered the gros de Tours and the gros de Naples, the watered silks and cloths of silver, with a host of capricious designs, and even with compositions furnished by the pupils of Charles Lebrun, these embroideries being destined to form the curtains and portieres of the apartments of which Lebrun had designed the ornaments, painted the ceilings and drawn the hangings, and to cover the furniture made by the cabinet-makers at the Gobelins.
Band of blue velvet decorated with arabesques in application. Italian work of the Sixteenth Century. (Collection of 51. Arondel).