Even today, in attitudes held by most of us the term "Toile de Jouy" generally evokes images of the motifs and the colourful countryside, these generic scenes telling real stories from everyday life as much as telling stories about successful literary, lyrical or mythical legends and major historical events.
Trends of an era
These motifs-called "monochrome shades"- often provided a representation of everyday life in the countryside in an idealized vision, influenced however by the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and in a style reminiscent of rococo already found in the styles of painters such as Boucher or Watteau.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, the countryside and its activities were fashionable. Aristocrats and the upper middle classes built their gardens with picturesque follies and rustic charm, like Marie Antoinette and the gardens of Versailles or the famous landscape "Hameau de la Reine" in the Petit Trianon. At the same time, exoticism was in the spotlight. The spirit of the Lumieres was steeped in an insatiable curiosity and openness to others and their differences. We wanted to discover new countries and have a better understanding of its people and indigenous cultures. This enthusiasm was a reflection of the decorative arts of the time. The Middle and Far East, Southwest Asia, Eastern Europe and any military or scientific expedition was an excuse to study and gain knowledge using inventory and classification.
Indians and other Persians
Popular belief too often associated with Jouy fabrics is that the monochrome country scenes and polychrome floral patterns accounted for the main production in Jouy of Oberkampf. First came the "Indian", based on exotic flowers and the stylized imitations of Indian fabrics, then the "Persian" which was very fashionable from 1790 and was in fashion at the time that Bonaparte returned from Egypt.
Designers recreated the environment and vegetation from descriptions in the most prestigious and natural botanical encyclopedias of their time. They developed natural scenes that were based on the philosophy of Rousseau who idealized a return to nature. In their compositions the designers mixed this naturalism to create whimsical and decorative fabrics.
A star of Toile de Jouy:Jean-Baptiste Huet
In 1783 Oberkampf, who had surrounded himself with outstanding people, chose to entrust his design studio to a painter with a well established reputation, Jean-Baptiste Huet. In total, over 30 of his drawings were printed in Jouy and there is no doubt that his designs have enhanced the reputation of the manufacturer, or at the very least, set the style.
First and foremost a wildlife artist, animals feature everywhere in his works, which also reflect what Rousseau advocated: a return to nature. They also depicted previously unknown animals discovered during Napoleon Bonaparte's military campaigns.
Throughout his collaboration with Oberkampf the style and themes of Jean-Baptiste Huet evolved over time, and from the pastoral scenery made arabesques and draperies in the typical style of Louis XVI, with the well structured geometry and order typical of the neoclassical times and giving a taste of "The Ancient" at the end of the eighteenth century.