Because I am in the business of fine and vintage textiles which are designed into unique and opulent accessories, I am sent postings for valuable fabrics daily. It’s commonplace for the descriptions of these textiles, especially those called “Aubusson,” to be incorrect. The sellers seem ignorant of their mislabeling. I hope it’s an innocent mistake. But, if it misleads a buyer, that’s another story and they could pay too much.
How can you tell what is Aubusson tapestry? It is a weave, not a needlepoint. See my photo where the Aubusson is on the left. It’s a very fine handmade weave, usually much finer than in this photo. I see many items on eBay that are labeled Aubusson that are clearly needlepoints, petit points (a tiny needlepoint stitch), or even a machine-made textile.
Aubusson is a city, an area of France known for its tapestry and carpets, renown for the tightly woven wool since the 14th century. Weavers from Flanders depicted very detailed scenes of landscapes and hunting parties. These soft masterpieces were regularly hung on the cold stone walls of castles in Europe to warm the rooms and deaden echoes.
After the French revolution came the arrival of wallpaper and artists turned to painting large opulent canvases. The artistry of Aubusson tapestries continued, however, and still thrives to an extent today. Prices can be in the many thousands of dollars, even ranging to six figures for a large rug. But, it’s the antiques pieces that hold the most value. The skill it takes to weave the final product, whether a wall hanging, rug or upholstery piece, brings a high price even today.
When buying from an online source, be sure to blow up the photograph to see the detail. And ask to see the reverse side as well. Needlepoint will be stitched on a canvas, an Aubusson on a loom.