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Númenórean carpet event from Aubusson

Jun 10 (edited)
2021/6/10 17:05:08 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

The following report is written by Denis Bridoux Vanyarin and republished here with his kind permission.

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After a long gap for obvious reasons, back from Aubusson where the first Númenórean carpet was released from its loom on Friday June 4th.

It’s a remarkable piece. One of two which Tolkien drew in early December 1960 (Pictures, no. 46, bottom left). It is 4.6m x 3.3m and weighs about 100kg. It was woven in wool in the simple knot Savonnerie method by the Manufacture Four https://www.aubusson-manufacture.com/ which has a long-standing monopoly on the process and made, among others, the Guernica tapestry which hang for many years at the United Nations. The carpet required 1600 hours of weaving. In total, 9 people worked on it from conception to completion. Seeing it at close range is amazing.

This was a highly emotional experience for all. Christopher's wife, Baillie Tolkien was present for the release and she was much affected by it. Much as she loved all the previous works which have been released so far, and had already given her full satisfaction, she admitted that this one had quite a unique effect on her. What made the piece extra special, she explained in French, is that, unlike the previous ones which were recreations of existing artwork in another medium, this was a completion, a realization of a carpet that Tolkien had designed a cartoon for in his mind in 1960, but never saw in real life. Baillie had prepared some notes but, seeing the piece, spoke without calling upon them. She finished by referring to Niggle who, seeing his Tree in full growth, exclaimed: “It’s a gift.

In addition to Conversation with Smaug and the replacement of several other pieces (Lothlorien was sadly judged "too complex"), Aubusson will now release the full Moria Gate uniting the top and bottom sections, Beleg Find Flinding in the Forest of Taur-na-Fuin and The Gardens of the Merking’s Palace. The choice of the latter two was made based on suggestions I had made to the team when I had shown them the restored versions of the illustrations at my first visit some years ago (time flies), and they were immediately convinced that they would make wonderful tapestries. They will also release Christopher’s original Map of Middle-earth in carpet format (albeit without the Umbar section which would have imbalanced the work and is mainly white). The sample of it that I have seen is impressive.

This may not, however, be the sum total of works reproduced in woven form, as Baillie said to me, when I asked her about a possible weaving of the other Númenórean carpet, that if Aubusson made her further project proposals, they would not be viewed unfavourably, so watch this space.

All this will depend on plans at Aubusson, as they are now getting involved in the weaving of several Miyasaki pieces. I have already seen one in the process of being woven by Patrick Guillot, who had produced some Tolkien carpets, and it is promising to be most spectacular.

The whole Tenture Tolkien will be exhibited together in a special hall in an extension to the Cité de la Tapisserie which is due to be opened in several years, as the contract with the architects was due to be signed that very evening.


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Jun 10
2021/6/10 17:35:50 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
Denis has emailed me a revised version of this text and I have included the additional paragraph below.

Also Aubusson is situated quite close to Limoges, another world centre of excellence, this time for ceramics and porcelain, and we know that Tolkien drew a range of tiles, including another outstanding piece, the Númenórean tile (Pictures, no. 46 top). When I mentioned this possibility to Emmanuel Gerard, director of the Cité de la Tapisserie, he said that they had a close relationship with their equivalents in Limoges. So watch this space.

Additionally a video of this carpet is in the Tolkien Tapestries thread and I have included it here.

Jun 11
2021/6/11 17:17:39 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
It’s nice to hear all of this about the tapestries.
Jun 11
2021/6/11 18:03:40 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
When comparing the used colours of this carpet with the picture published in 'Pictures by J.R.R.Tolkien', it seems that they are a little bit too intense...

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Jun 11
2021/6/11 19:29:14 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Ithildin wrote:

When comparing the used colours of this carpet with the picture published in 'Pictures by J.R.R.Tolkien', it seems that they are a little bit too intense...

When the Aubusson rug is as old as the sketch, it will be that faded too. 😉

Mostly kidding. Mostly.
Jun 11
2021/6/11 19:48:55 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Urulókë wrote:

Ithildin wrote:

When comparing the used colours of this carpet with the picture published in 'Pictures by J.R.R.Tolkien', it seems that they are a little bit too intense...

When the Aubusson rug is as old as the sketch, it will be that faded too. 😉

Mostly kidding. Mostly.

😎 OK, we only need to wait some 60 years

I hope they will realise the second carpet as well. Very impressing artwork.
Jun 11
2021/6/11 20:59:53 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
A printed image of a photograph of an original does not always accurately reproduce the colors of the original.
Jun 11
2021/6/11 21:46:48 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
I'm not going to pretend I like Persian-style rugs (or this specific Tolkien design), but I certainly respect the skill that goes into making them. UV would dim it over time in real use.
Jun 12
2021/6/12 7:33:21 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia
I must add that all the tapestries are more coloured than the original drawings. I've seen a half of them, both at Paris exhibition and in another one, in the South of France, when 4 were exhibited at the Thoronet abbey (where Christopher Tolkien had done his last public appearence) and all of them are like overexposed, compared to the illustrations. But I imagine the difficulties to match exactly the colours... And that ask another question : does the craftspersons should follow the current colors or the ones that were at the time Tolkien drew them ? Which choice is the most faithful ?
Jun 12
2021/6/12 11:08:33 (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time, London, Dublin, Lisbon, Casablanca, Monrovia

Druss wrote:

I must add that all the tapestries are more coloured than the original drawings. I've seen a half of them, both at Paris exhibition and in another one, in the South of France, when 4 were exhibited at the Thoronet abbey (where Christopher Tolkien had done his last public appearence) and all of them are like overexposed, compared to the illustrations. But I imagine the difficulties to match exactly the colours... And that ask another question : does the craftspersons should follow the current colors or the ones that were at the time Tolkien drew them ? Which choice is the most faithful ?

But all of the drawn pictures are stored most time in the dark, only exposed to daylight when shown to the public. Do you think, they were faded nevertheless?
I rather think they used these overexposed colours cause of the big dimensions of their pieces.
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