Gobelin was the name of a family of dyers, who in all probability came originally from Reims, and who in the middle of the 15th century established themselves in the Faubourg Saint Marcel, Paris, on the banks of the Bièvre.
The first head of the firm was named Jehan (d. 1476). He discovered a peculiar kind of scarlet dyestuff, and he expended so much money on his establishment that it was named by the common people la folie Gobelin. To the dye-works there was added in the 16th century a manufactory of tapestry.
So rapidly did the wealth of the family increase, that in the third or fourth generation some of them forsook their trade and purchased titles of nobility. More than one of their number held offices of state, among others Balthasar, who became successively treasurer general of artillery, treasurer extraordinary of war, councillor secretary of the king, chancellor of the exchequer, councillor of state and president of the chamber of accounts, and who in 1601 received from Henry IV the lands and lordship of Brie-Comte-Robert. He died in 1603. The name of the Gobelins as dyers cannot be found later than the end of the 17th century.
The Gobelins manufacture still produces some limited amount of tapestries for the decoration of French governmental institutions, with contemporary subjects. Here, a haute lisse
Here, a basse lisse
loom, used for smaller pieces.
In 1662 the works in the Faubourg Saint Marcel, with the adjoining grounds, were purchased by Colbert on behalf of Louis XIV and transformed into a general upholstery manufactory, in which designs both in tapestry and in all kinds of furniture were executed under the superintendence of the royal painter, Le Brun. On account of the pecuniary embarrassments of Louis XIV, the establishment was closed in 1694, but it was reopened in 1697 for the manufacture of tapestry, chiefly for royal use and for presentation.
During the French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon the manufacture was suspended, but it was revived by the Bourbons, and in 1826 the manufacture of carpets was added to that of tapestry. In 1871 the building was partly burned by the Communists. The manufacture is still carried on as a state administration.
See Lacordaire, Notice historique sur les manufactures impériales de tapisserie des Gobelin et de tapis de la Savonnerie, precédée du catalogue des tapisseries gui y sont exposés (Paris, 1853); Genspach, Repertoire détaillé des tapisseries exécutés aux Gobelins, 1662—1892 (Paris, 1893); Guiffrey, Histoire de la tapisserie en France (Paris, 1878—1885). The two last-named authors were directors of the manufactory.
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.