Manufactory Of The Gobelins, an establishment in Paris belonging to the French government, devoted to the production of tapestry and carpets. It is situated in the faubourg St. Marcel, upon the Bievre, being No. 254 rue Mouffetard. It derives its name from the brothers Jehan and Gilles Gobelin, who discovered an improvement in scarlet dye, and erected this building as they believed that the water of the little stream Bievre possessed qualities advantageous to their art. Jehan, the head of the Gobelin family, died in 1476; some maintain that he was a native of Rheims, and others that he came from Holland. His scarlet dye soon rose into great repute. The establishment was purchased by Louis XIV., and transformed in 1607 into the manufacture royale des meuoles de la couronne. The royal factory was not only a dye house and a manufactory of tapestry, but an immense workshop in which everything was executed that was needed for furnishing and decorating houses. Engravers in metal and gold and silversmiths produced chandeliers, torch-holders, candlesticks, and statuary bronzes, in keeping with the magnificent tapestry designs, which skilful weavers wrought after patterns furnished by the royal painters; cabinet makers carved, turned, and gilded the wood of the furniture; Florentine artists inlaid beautiful mosaics; and thus everything, even the knobs and locks of windows and doors, was executed in the highest style of art.
The royal painter, Lebrun, was the director of this immense establishment. Mignard, who succeeded Lebrun, opened in it a school of design. Though the works were ready to execute private orders, their prosperity was chiefly dependent on the patronage of Louis XIV.; and when, on account of the pecuniary embarrassments of the crown after the year 1694, this patronage was withdrawn, all the skilled workmen had to be dismissed. After the peace of Ryswick (1097) the Gobelins was opened again, but the operations were restricted to the manufacture of tapestry, which was generally made only for presentation to crowned heads and persons of distinction. The revolution threw the establishment into neglect, and Napoleon gave it little encouragement; but the Bourbons, who returned to the old custom of making gifts with the celebrated tapestry, brought it again into a flourishing condition, in which it remained, with slight interruptions, till it was partly burned by the communists, May 24, 1871. - The manufactory of the Gobelins is now divided into three distinct sections: the dye house, the tapestry workshop, and the carpet factory. The dye house produces not only all different colors, but from 20 to 30 shades of each.
While many of the hangings worked 50 years ago are already faded, the factory is now able to produce any color perfectly fast. This great progress is due to . the labors of the eminent chemist Chevreul, who was employed by the government to instruct the Gobelins dyers. Large rooms are devoted to the hautes lisses, or high warps, upon which the tapestries are suspended as the work goes on. The warp hangs from a horizontal cylinder, and as every yard or thereabout in length is completed, it is wound upon another cylinder in the lower part of the frame. The principal features of the design being traced with white chalk by the artist upon the stretched thread of the warp, he marks, with the aid of tracings from the picture, which he attaches to the warp, the exact positions of the light and dark shades. Then, with the pattern conveniently placed for reference, the artist stations himself against the back of the tapestry, and, with his worsteds and silks at hand, begins to work in the different colors. The vertical threads of the warp are divided by a hed-dle or cross stick which keeps half of them in advance of the rest; but those behind can be brought forward whenever required by means of small cords, one of which is attached to each warp thread.
The left hand is introduced between the two sets of threads, taking up as many as need be, and through these the needle is passed from left to right. The thread when stretched is piled with the point of the needle, and is then passed back in the contrary direction through the space opened by shifting the position of the front and back threads. By ingeniously combining the woofs, the colors are made to blend perfectly, and effects are obtained like those of painting. The work is so slowly executed that an artist is not expected to average in a year a production of more than about 39 inches square. - In 1826 the manufactory of carpets, called 7a savonnerie, from an old soap factory in which the making of carpets had been carried on from the year 1615, was connected with the tapestry establishment. The carpets are remarkable for smoothness and evenness of texture and their strength and fineness, excelling even the Persian in these respects. Some of them require from five to ten years for their completion, and cost 60,000 to 150,000 francs. All the carpets made during the reign of Napoleon III. were used for the decoration of the imperial palaces.
The largest ever made was manufactured for the gallery of the Louvre. It consists of 72 pieces, the total length being more than 1,300 ft. - Among the celebrated pieces executed at this establishment is a picture, completed about the year 1844, of the "Massacre of the Mamelukes," after the celebrated work of Horace Vernet, which has been presented to the queen of England. The portrait of Louis XIV., by Rigaud, is considered the finest work of the Gobelins. Titian's "Assumption" was worked after a copy by Serrur into a magnificent tapestry 21 ft. high.