The tiny commune of Aubusson, France, rarely makes an appearance on must-see travel lists, but history buffs and design aficionados alike should consider adding it to their French itineraries. Aubusson lies in France’s Creuse region, about an hour-and-a-half east of Limoges, the town made famous for its porcelain. However, Aubusson has its own namesake craft, weaving, that became so popular, the city’s name became a commonly used term for the rugs and tapestries produced there.
Aubusson became renowned for its carpets and tapestries as early as the 16th century, when they began to appear in royal residences. The town’s artists developed a new style of weaving that utilized depth perception to create a visually impressive textile. The desired image would first be painted onto paper, then cut into pieces and assembled into what we know today as a tapestry. This style of weaving is so demanding that few have replicated it, with only a few European houses using a similar style.
Early Aubusson works resembled the Ushak Medallion and Turkish rugs that were prominent among European royalty during its early stages of development, but the local artisans later shifted to Italian Renaissance–style florals and architectural patterns in the style most of us think of today. A centerpiece of Italy’s artistic Renaissance was depicting nature and landscapes in a realistic way, and this detailed style of weaving allowed Aubusson’s weavers to do just that in a way no one else was at the time.
Aubusson soon became a market town for surrounding rural areas as workshops were established in the 1740s to meet the demand of nobility and the royal family. A national school of decorative arts was established in 1869 and still produces breathtaking works of art to this day. William Morris, champion of the British Arts & Crafts movement, even brought over some of the town’s best talent to form the Old Windsor Tapestry Manufactory in 1881, of which Queen Victoria and her youngest son, Prince Leopold, were avid patrons.
While the rise of wallpaper in the late 19th century and early 20th century reduced the demand for these fine and intricate tapestries, Aubusson’s artisans began to reflect the court’s desires for modernist-style works. The craft saw a revival as Surrealist artists, like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, began soliciting artworks translated onto tapestries. Today, Aubusson finds new life from Marchioness collection, with a stunning line of housewares, artworks, and serving pieces inspired by its impeccable craftsmanship that helps create a cozy and chic home for fall and winter.
“Two hundred years later, the spirit of Aubusson tapestries continues to cast its spell on the autumnal homes of today,” says Bethany Berk, founder of Marchioness. “These antique paintings are a delightful match for the season’s natural tawny tones and the influences from the outdoors and wildlife. The low golden sun filters through our households and creates a seductive mood, making it impossible not to succumb to preparing our homes in anticipation for the holidays ahead.”
Berk stumbled upon some Aubusson paintings while at an antiques fair in France and immediately began to be inspired by the stunning landscapes. While these paintings were created centuries ago, she says they feel just as relevant now, serving as a beautiful backdrop while spending time with loved ones and weaving stories of our own by the fire.
“As my eye wandered over the vignettes of flowers and animals and the muted colors and frayed edges, they gave me a sense of wonder and discovery,” Berk says. “I imagined the tapestries these patterns would have made and the rooms they would have decorated. Images flooded my mind—antlers, feathers, black forest boxes, candlelight, brandy, chairs in front of a warm fire. Intimate gatherings of family and friends returning home after a day of outdoor activities, putting their feet up on the coffee table and telling tales about their adventures.”
You can shop Berk’s new collection online now and rediscover the painstaking craftsmanship, gorgeous landscapes, and historic impact that keeps the little town of Aubusson flourishing with artistic talent and inspiration. Those who are looking for a design-focused getaway in 2021 can visit the International Tapestry Museum, which opened in 2016 after the weaving style was listed as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
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