Manufacture des Gobelins Tapestry museum in Paris

First established in the 1600s, it became the Gobelins factory producing furnishings in the form of tapestries intended for the royal houses in the 17th century, and still continues this practise today, but a museum has also been set up with guided tours available.

A bit of history

It was back in 1443 that Jehan Gobelin open up a workshop on the edge of the Bievre river in the Saint Marcel or Latin Quarter of Paris as a dyer and his descendents remained there until the start of the 1600s, when the workshops were then sold to Flemish Weavers, but they also continued the dying activity as well.
Manufacture des Gobelins Tapestry
With Monseigneur Colbert who worked under King Louis XIV restoring the king's palaces such as The Tuileries and The Louvre, which is now the famous museum in Paris, it was decided that there should be impressive pieces of furniture that would enhance the splendour of the chateaux.

So he sought the expertise of workmen from various art forms like sculptors, goldsmiths and weavers and it was in 1662 that Colbert advised King Louis XIV to purchase the Gobelins workshops, which then became known as the Hotel Royal de Gobelins and also the Tapisseire au Gobelins.

The workshops and buildings were then completely rebuilt and improved that led to more expert weavers being employed, which it was estimated to be around 250 hand weavers.  It was also decided that no tapestry work would be imported from another country due to the finest of works being produced, plus the fact that it was the only manufacture of its kind in the world.

Incredibly since 1826, the Gobelins has exclusively practised the high wrap loom and technique of weaving.
During the mid 1800s Baron Haussmann made many reforms to the city of Paris, but fortunately these buildings were saved from destruction, and even during the French Revolution and the Paris Commune they also avoided this fate, even though fire did destroy some aspects.

Being state owned, an architect by the name of Formige was commissioned to build a gallery in 1913 in which to construct a museum, even though the weaving practise still continued, although what with World War I and the decline in these types of requirements, the museum did not last and the buildings were in need of renovation.

However, the traditional practise of the high loom still continued and in 2003 the workshop building was re-opened to the public and tourists on holiday in Paris.

About the Manufacture des Gobelins Tapestry Museum

Horse tapestry at Manufacture des Gobelins Tapestry
Tapestry at Manufacture des Gobelins Tapestry
There are approximately 35 hand weavers that work at the tapestry workshops, which produce tapestries for state buildings and in accordance with tradition for those of diplomatic gifts.

The Gobelins is still exclusively utilising the high wrap technique of weaving and incredibly it would take an experienced weaver about a year to complete a one metre square section of tapestry, yet this is something you can discover in person, when you decide to visit the tapestry factory of this unusual museum in Paris.

Within the Galerie des Gobelins, temporary exhibitions are conducted that provide an insight into production techniques along with original tapestries that have been produced, plus much more relating to the art of tapestry for those of you that are interested in discovering more.

Many of the temporary exhibitions held within the Gallery of the Gobelins museum are based on a particular theme, such as one that was running in 2013 based on flora, which displayed tapestries from the Middle Ages through to the 21st century and showed how attitudes, expressions and tastes changed, to what the finished tapestry would be like.
Forest tapestry at Manufacture des Gobelins Tapestry

Visiting Manufacture des Gobelins Tapestry museum in Paris

The Galerie des Gobelins museum is only open when there are temporary exhibitions being conducted, but for individual visitors, during these periods it is open from a Tuesday through to a Sunday from 11am to 6pm, however, due to the fact that it is not always open it is advisable to check rather than be disappointed.

However, it is always closed on a Monday and on all National French Holidays, plus the remainder of the year when there is no temporary exhibition, yet as well as individual visits, guided tours are also available at set times and days, but we would like to point out that these are only available in French.

The normal cost of entry is around €8 per person and the last entry to the Gallery des Gobelins tapestry museum is a minimum of 45 minutes before closing time, yet there is free entry on the last Sunday of each month, again only if there is a temporary exhibition in place.
Bird tapestry at Manufacture des Gobelins Tapestry
Louis XIV tapestry at Manufacture des Gobelins Tapestry
There are guided tours lasting one hour, which are organised for specific dates during the year at an approximate cost of around €12 for adults, but these do have to be booked in advance.

Access to the Manufacture des Gobelins

You will find that the Manufacture des Gobelins Tapestry Museum is located in the 13th Arrondissement of Paris and the nearest Metro station is the Gobelins stop via line 7.  Yet still within walking distance you could utilise the Campo-Formio stop serving line 5 or the Place d'Italie stop serving lines 5, 6 and 7.

In addition to these options, other public transport in Paris that will get you close by to this historical and unusual tourist attraction is via the bus lines 27, 47, 57, 64, 67, 83 and 91 or the Noctilien Night Bus Service via lines N01, N02, N15 and N22.