The Gobelins factory

The Gobelins factory

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Title: Visit of Louis XIV to the Manufacture des Gobelins, October 15, 1667.

Author : LE BRUN after Charles (1619 - 1690)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 375 - Width 580

Technique and other indications: Low smooth, wool, silk and gold thread

Storage place: National Museum of the Palace of Versailles (Versailles) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Christian Jean / Jean Schormans

Picture reference: 79-000453 / Vmb14197; GMTT9810; V38412

Visit of Louis XIV to the Manufacture des Gobelins, October 15, 1667.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais (Palace of Versailles) / Christian Jean / Jean Schormans

Publication date: November 2012

Historical context

The beginning of the personal reign of Louis XIV

In 1667, the Manufacture des Gobelins was transformed into a "Royal Manufacture of Crown Furniture" under the leadership of Colbert, who had become Controller General of Finance two years earlier. Entrusted to the painter Charles Lebrun, it is part of the development of state patronage.
Its objective is twofold. On the one hand, it is about producing furniture, engravings, silverware and tapestries for royal residences and for export, thus responding to the principles of Colbertism.
On the other hand, it must fuel the consolidation of the monarchical figure. This tapestry therefore illustrates the king's visit on October 15, 1667, shortly after the change in status of the Gobelins factory.

The execution of this work took place in two stages. This tapestry thus places the new sovereign in a symbolic lineage with Louis XIV.

Image Analysis

Promoting French sumptuary craftsmanship

This tapestry is of low smooth, a technique based on a horizontal loom allowing great precision in the design. This may explain the profusion and thoroughness of detail in the work. A foreground displays in a jumble the different trades gathered at the Gobelins. By not respecting the perspective in the representation of characters and objects, this scene gives an impression of disorder. Many moving sketches are represented there.

Some move pieces of gold or silver, others a cabinet piece, others a tapestry rolled up under the arm.
In the background, a monumental painting presumably representing a battle scene occupies part of the back wall. Between the two shots on the left, a small isolated group attracts the viewer's gaze.
Louis XIV is accompanied by his minister Colbert to whom he turns, and two other characters. The royal figure is highlighted by the red as well as by the void effect created at its feet. The king is significantly taller than the other men on the same plane as him, a sign of his majesty.

Finally, the border enshrines the manufacture in a deployment of floral garlands on a damask background, while recalling the royal dimension of the company in the upper escutcheon which represents the order of Saint-Michel and fleur-de-lis royal blue.


A glorification of the royal figure and of France

This tapestry does not exist alone. It is part of a larger set of fourteen pieces constituting the hanging of The King's Story, intended to illustrate the military, civil and diplomatic achievements of the monarch. Louis XIV's visit to the Gobelins factory therefore bears witness to the king's modernity, which made this art an instrument of political communication. However, in this context of centralization of monarchical power, the celebration of royal symbolism tends to merge with the celebration of the state. The king, represented in the background, the busyness in the foreground, just like the sumptuousness of the achievement, are metonymic of a conquering France. The prestige of the Gobelins is also such that the name becomes synonymous with French tapestries in several European languages, inscribing the company in the long time of a triumphant monarchy which must also be expressed in the guise of its heir, Louis XV. . Beyond Louis XIV, it is the royal figure as a whole that is honored.

  • Louis XIV
  • absolute monarchy
  • Gobelins factory
  • Colbert (Jean-Baptiste)
  • Great Century


Joël CORNETTE, Absolutism and Enlightenment, 1652-1783, Paris, Hachette, 1993.

Maurice DAUMAS, Images and Societies in Modern Europe, 15th-18th century, Paris, A. Colin, 2000.

Jean-Christian PETITFILS, Louis XIV, Paris, Fayard, 1999.

François BLUCHE (dir.), Dictionary of the Grand Siècle, Paris, Fayard, 1990, reed. 2006.

To cite this article

Myriam DENIEL TERNANT, "La manufacture des Gobelins"

Video: Manufactures des Gobelins Paris