a fabrics lover diary

Lyon's Silk


1466: Louis XI decides to set up a silk manufacture in Lyon.
1536: Two Italian merchants, Turchetti (his French name was Etienne Turquet) and Naris set up a silk workshop in Lyon. Turchetti founded a school where Italian silk winders or spinners taught their skill to local young poor girls.
1540: Francois I, King of France, granted the monopoly of silk manufacturing to the city of Lyon.
After 1540 all fine silks coming into France from Italy or East passed through Lyons warehouses.
1605-1620: Claude Dangon, a master weaver, improved loom technology of the Italian loom named " métier à la grande tire" . In 1620 there were more than 10000 looms in Lyon.
1667: Colbert, the super-intendant of finance of Louis XIV, regulates the silk industry...
1685: The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes make the French Huguenots flee the country in large number. Many were expert in the textile industry and they contributed to the development of the silk industry in Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Netherland and Switzerland.
1685-1715: The end of the Louis XIV reign brings war and poverty. The silk industry is threatened by the increasing scarcity of royal orders and by financial problems.
1726-1730: Important orders by the royal " Garde-Meuble" for the decoration of the king's apartment are the beginning of important development of the silk industry that lasts until the French revolution.

1786: The number of looms is 15000.
1789-1797: The silk industry is almost completely destroyed by the French revolution. Thousands of it's inhabitants were to be guillotined or shot. Most of its skilled labor disapeared. Most of the drawings, designs and fabric's sample that were the Lyon's glory were destroyed. Those who survived fled to England, Russia, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Germany. In 1797 the number of people working for the textile industry in Lyon was about 10% of 1780.

Silk workshop Lyon mid 19thc

1801:Joseph Marie Jacquard invents a mechanical loom controlled by pasteboard card with punched holes, each row of which correspond to one row of design.

1802: Bonaparte and Josephine's visit to Lyon marked the begining of the reconstruction period.

One of the strenght of Lyon: the birth of multi-talented designers entrepreneurs.

in 1759 there were 55 fabric designers, 80 in 1790. Many names were forgotten except Ringuet, Courtois, Roussel, Lallié, Revel, Douet, Dechazelle, Bony, Joubert de l'Hiberderie, de Lasalle, Dutillieu. We have few information about these artist as most of the time they work anonymously. Jean revel ( 1684-1751) produced a number of chinoiserie silk design in early Rococo style from the mid-1750s. Jean Pillement (1728-1808) endraved fanciful chinoiserie design that were drawn upon by other tetxile designers in his One hundred and thirty figures and ornaments and some flowers in the Chinese style, London 1767 . His design were used by English cotton printers and by Oberkampt factory at Jouy.



Representing Silk Design

Nicolas Joubert de l'Hiberderie and Le Dessinateur pour les étoffes d'or, d'argent et de soie (Paris, 1765) Lesley Ellis Miller

Le Dessinateur pour les étoffes d'or, d'argent et de soie was published in Paris in 1765 depite the reservations of the silk-weaving guild of Lyons, receiving a good response in the Enlightenment press. As the first description on French of the trade of silk designer to appear in the public domain, it has become an important work on which much subsequent history has been based, often rather uncritically. This article delves into the representation of design offered by this text, evaluating it against the personal experience of its author, the literary and manufacturing heritage on which he drew, and the readership for women it was intended. The analysis is based on the form and content of the book, the structure, vocabulary and illustrations. Comparative data are drawn from two other important publications on silk manufacture, the relevant sections of Denis Diderot's Encyclopédie and Jean Paulet's L'Art du fabriquant.

Le Dessinateur pour les étoffes d’or, d’argent et de soie, published in Paris in 1765, has become something of a bible for historians of the eighteenth-century silk industries. Evidently the first manual on silk design ever written in French, its author was a relatively obscure Lyonnais designer, Antoine-Nicolas Joubert de l’Hiberderie, who chose to communicate to aspiring designers the path into a career in design. Joubert fulfilled his self-imposed mission by producing a text that gave a short historical background to the trade and its pioneers in Lyons, relayed technical information on the range and nature of different patterned silk fabrics, offered an introductory tour of Paris, the inspiration for and the destination of many of the fabrics produced in Lyons, and ended with a translation of an Italian artists’ handbook.


E. Leroudier, ‘Les dessinateurs et la soierie lyonnaise au XVIIIe siècle’, Revue d'Histoire de Lyons, 1908,
A. M. Wiederkehr, ‘Le dessinateur pour les étoffes d'or, d'argent et de soie’, doctorat 3e cicle, Université de Lyons II, 1981
Histoire de la rubanerie et des industries de la soie à Saint-Étienne, 1906 Louis Joseph Gras
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