The Joy of Jouy

Art History Curiosities Decor Decorative Arts Furniture History

Some of our most widely requested upholsteries are toiles de Jouy. Often, we are even asked if we would vend them separately. There is no need for us to do this, when there are so many wonderful houses in the trade with rich savoir-faire and centuries of heritage to inform their work. We have had the pleasure of working with small mills and big brands from all over the world.

One such place is Christopher Moore, better known as the Toile Man. We recently made a wingchair with 'La Foire du Caire,' the iconic Petitpierre et Cie print faithfully recreated by the Toile Man. We were lucky enough to have the house of Christopher Moore tell us about the print. 

"Toile de Jouy originated in the mid 18th century and its heyday ran until 1840, but it has always come in and out of fashion as it is one of the classic fabrics, like chintz. It was first printed in England but Oberkampf and his famous factory at Jouy-en-Josas, near Versailles, in France, was to make it really famous, so much so that the designs are now referred to as toiles de Jouy which literally means “fabrics from Jouy.” Originally printed with flat engraved copper plates just like paper prints, it is now printed by silkscreens or digitally. This particular design on the chair is “La Foire du Caire”, or Cairo Fair and takes its subject from a popular opera of the time and was first printed in 1785. This design was actually printed in Nantes another famous centre of textile printing. Christopher Moore London have one of the largest collections of toile de Jouy currently on the market, all taken from original documentary textiles.

They are currently adding them to their website aptly named" 

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A custom Louis XV wing chair, featuring La Faire du Caire by Christopher Moore, inspired by Grétry's famous baroque opera
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Toile de Jouy fabric history

A brief history 

Although the history of copper plate printing extends to Ireland and then England, toiles de Jouy are better known from the French origins of their design. 

During the 17th century, European printed cottons were not yet colourfast. Through the colonial trade, Indian cotton prints, which were fixed with mordants, became popular in Europe. These “indiennes” were soon customised in European sensibilities and used for both clothing and furnishing. A 70-year ban on printed cotton was even imposed to protect the wool and silk industry from this light and washable textile. 

It was at the end of this ban that the Bavarian Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf set up his factory in Jouy-en-Josas, positioned conveniently for royal patronage near the Court at Versailles. For the first decade, Oberkampf’s factory only produced indiennes using Indian wooden block printing techniques.

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"Pastorale" One of the most ubiquitous toile patterns, this print of village scenes is almost a cliché today. On the left is a shepherdess cut from this print.  

The very first “toile de Jouy” print was designed for Oberkampf by Jean Baptiste Huet to depict the workings of the Jouy-en-Josas factory itself, with vignettes showing the production of fabric at various stages. This design continues to be printed even today. 

With improvements in the printing press, engraved copper plates began to be used which greatly improved the detailing of these prints. Initially the plates were flat, which allowed wide repeats but later narrower roller-plates were introduced, which sped up production significantly.

The earliest toiles from Jouy were deeply romanticised rococo designs depicting naturalistic scenes, reflecting the Enlightenment sensibilities of the time. Some were even commissioned to Fragonard himself. After surviving the revolution despite their royal warrant, the factory evolved the themes of the prints to appease the various regime changes in France. 

Country style toile de jouy fabric Fragonard
Fragonard by Christopher Moore represents some of the early style of toiles inspired by the philosophy of Rousseau

While toiles are mostly known for their bucolic themes, they have always been altered to reflect the changing time. The discovery of Pompeii and the resulting neoclassical movement produced some stunning toiles referring to Greek and Roman mythology. Later Napoleonic toiles feature tightly packed linear designs. 

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Diana Chasseresse by Christopher Moore represents the early neoclassical style with Diana as the Goddess of the Hunt

Although Oberkampf's original factory no longer survives, its documents and archives do, preserving over thousands of copyright-free designs. These are now faithfully reproduced as well as senselessly copied. You can guess which versions we prefer.

Over the centuries, toile de Jouy has experienced several revivals and can now be found on hand bags, porcelain and even phone covers. The subjects have also evolved, like the famous Harlem toile by artist Sheila Bridges. Over the years, the concentration of toile production shifted to workshops in Mulhouse, Nantes and Normandy, and even other countries, but they continued to be known as toile de Jouy.

Toile de Jouy is a rare unbroken string of time in the history of the decorative arts. A living piece of history that is open to reinterpretation. How would you use it? 

A toile inspired by L'Agreable Leçon, Boucher's masterpiece of "elegant vulgarity" featuring a bergère engrossed in a pipe lesson while surrounded by symbols of love and lust. Peak rococo sensibilities. Very appropriately, this toile is employed on a playful Louis XV bergère sofa.

Keep scrolling for some stunning renditions of Toile de Jouy. Click on any photo in this email to explore further. To read about how upholsteries are offered with our pieces, click here.

Though you can find all styles of toiles on all styles of antique furniture, they would usually have been reupholstered at a later date and are not the original upholstery of the piece. Thanks to this, toiles don't look strictly wrong on any piece, but still the original pastoral scenes go best with Louis XV furniture. Below we have a daring doll family who have opted for a rare sage toile on their Louis XVI suite. 

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