Velvet Garden

The “Jardinière” fabric [ed: coming from the French feminine form of “gardener,” often used to describe flower boxes] is aptly named. This silk velour boasts audacious floral motifs, like a dive into a purely baroque textile garden. These expressive designs mirror themselves in harmonious interlacing foliage and stylized flowers, forming colorful arabesques. The Jardinière style pays with the three dimensional character of velour, making reliefs from shearing and looping to produce striking effects.
Jardiniere_velvet,_Italy,_Genoa,_early_18th_century,_silk_cisele_velvet,_view_1_-_Royal_Ontario_Museum_-_detail
Originally Italian, this chiseling technique dates from the end of the 16th century. The weavers work with luxurious materials on pulling looms – ancestors of Jacquard looms – which creates weavings of remarkable complexity. At that time, the creation of velour was limited to a handful of Italian textile centers: Genoa, Lucca, Florence and Venice. The city of Genoa specialized in the 17th century in the production of this fabric, offering added value to this fabric by moving from a bicolor motif to deep green and ruby polychrome on a champagne-colored background. The addition of red silk, tinted with precious kermes extract (a Southern European cochineal that is cooked, dried and milled), brought a more natural and contrasting effect to the fabric.
While velours were usually used for apparel, these tricolor Jardinières were used primarily as upholstery to embellish chairs and walls in wealthy homes. Between 1670 and 1750, these luxury fabrics gained international renown. They traveled from Italian palaces into the interiors of the European nobility at large, who sought novelty. These velours made a strong impression, dressing spaces with shine and style and expressing the high status of their inhabitants.