Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
Carpets as luxury
French carpet of the period of Louis XIII. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

French carpet of the period of Louis XIII. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Luxury is best understood as an exercise in technical prowess, imagination, and conceptual adeptness. These three active ingredients are present in any effort that is showcased as what a specific group of people, or culture can produce. This is probably why the most luxurious products throughout history were developed to provoke the admiration, awe, and perhaps fear among rival nation states.

The French court understood the value of innovation in terms of artistic processes and capitalized on it by combining a variety of influences and methods in the production of beautiful objects. There were often meant as diplomatic gifts and as such would demonstrate how superb French production and therefore French culture were.

A most interesting example that came up for auction on April 20 at Sotheby’s in Paris is a rare carpet from “La Manufacture Royale de Tapisseries de Turquie et autres Ouvrages du Levant,” called Savonnerie. The carpet was produced at the workshop of Simon Lourdet at Chaillot under the reign of Louis XIII, ca. 1630-1632. Today it measures 5.92 x 3.86 m. The carpet was a commission by Cardinal Giovanni Francesco Guidi di Bagno, ambassador of the Holy See in Flanders and France and is the only large ‘Turkish” carpet of its type known today. It is unusual because of its deep coloring of yellow and deep red while much of its flora (sunflowers, tulips, anemones, dahlias and carnations) was done in “greater than life” scale and was inspired by the culture of the Levant (Turkey, Persia, and India). The baskets and masks of the carpet’s border are a testimony to the carpet’s country of origin (France, and therefore European culture and iconography). However, it seems that this is an earlier example to the well-known royal blue and brown carpets produced under the reign of Louis XIII.

The carpet sold on April 20 for 1,856,750 EUR (including buyer’s premium) at the lower end of its estimate, which had been set between 1,800,000 and 2,500,000 EUR.

© Thomaï Serdari