A centuries-old tradition, the craft of Aubusson tapestry consists of weaving an image using processes practised in the city of Aubusson and a number of other localities in the Creuse region of France. This craft produces mainly large decorative wall hangings but also rugs and pieces of furniture.
Its origins were born with the arrival of weavers from Flanders, who took refuge in Aubusson around 1580. The style of the tapestries produced has changed through the centuries, from scenes of green landscapes through to hunting scenes.
Typically, the tapestries depended on engravings as a design source – figures were set against a conventional background of verdure, stylized foliage and vignettes of plants on which birds perch and from which issue glimpses of towers and towns.
Weaving is done manually by a ”lissier,” or weaver, on a loom positioned horizontally, working on the reverse side of the tapestry, and using yarns that are hand-dyed. This process is time-consuming and expensive.
In the 17th Century, the Aubusson workshops were given “Royal Appointment” status. A downturn in fortunes came after the French revolution and the arrival of wallpaper. However, tapestry made something of a comeback during the 1930s, with artists such as Cocteau, Dufy, Dali, Braque, Calder and Picasso being invited to Aubusson to express themselves through the medium of wool.
The Aubusson tapestries are a gold standard throughout the world, to the extent that Aubusson has become a common noun in some languages.