Two Letters about the Boudoir Turc in Fontainebleau

Following the article on the restoration of the Bourdoir Turc at Fontainebleau and the fundraiser launched by the château, we received these two letters below. The first is by Xavier Salmon, director of heritage and collections at the château in Fontainebleau who responded to our invitation to open a debate by pointing out notably the museum’s policy. The second was sent by Bruno Saunier, heritage curator, deputy director of collections at the Direction des Patrimoines.

Embroidery of the Boudoir Turc in Fontainebleau
(part kept in situ)
Photo : T. Malty et B. Corbara

The question you raise in the article concerning the Boudoir Turc, on the subject of replacing or restoring the textiles, is particularly important to Fontainebleau as the heritage in this domain is immense. The choice was to preserve the original textiles whenever their condition allows it. That was the case in the Pope’s apartment where the Second Empire curtains were restored and reinstalled. This will also be the case in the Imperial theater where all of the silk fabrics and the carpets in satisfactory condition will be cleaned and left as are.

The case of the Boudoir Turc, in my opinion, can serve as a model since it allowed us to preserve all of the textiles which did not show extensive deterioration (muslins, "passementeries" [upholstery trimmings] and curtains - ill. - carpets, bedspreads), but also carry out the reweaving of those which were too deteriorated. Maintaining the chromatic harmony of these interiors is extremely important for the public to understand the bold statements made by these bygone ages. The ivory white in association with the gold thread and the coral trimmings contributed significantly to the refinement desired by the Empress in this small room. Unlike with paintings, attempts at cleaning fabrics do not always produce a satisfactory result ; above all, they do not stop the ongoing process of deterioration and fading of the textiles.
For this reason, in the past, when it was still possible thanks to "program laws" to undertake ambitious reweaving campaigns, the choice was to remove the silk fabrics from the Empress’ bedroom or the furniture from the Emperor’s room in the interior apartment and replace them with identical pieces by turning to the prestigious silk manufacturers in Lyon. The original textiles were then carefully stored in order to preserve them and stop their deterioration. Today, they are considered works of art and can be viewed on request. The orders to the craftspeople in Lyon are also a way of helping to preserve a French knowledge which would otherwise disappear. The level of skill required in reweaving is as important as that needed when restoring a painting. Fontainebleau will have to once again face the difficult problem of fabric replacement with the start of the restorations in the Petits appartements on the ground floor which also hold several original textile ensembles. For example, let us consider the Empress’ yellow salon which now presents a greyish yellow shade no longer corresponding to the chromatic harmony selected under the Premier Empire, originally buttercup yellow and blood red embroidery...Here again, decisions will have to be made so that the public understands that this is either an old and totally faded fabric, burnt by the sun and the moon or else a modern textile which replicates the colors chosen by the Empress and left there by all the successive occupants of this apartment. As you can see, the question is indeed fascinating and I would be very happy to join in should you set up a debate.

Xavier Salmon


Allow me to add a few details concerning the subject of your news item on the Boudoir Turc at Fontainebleau.
Indeed, although the decree of 1981 on loans and deposits of collections belonging to national museums was repealed in 2011, it has now simply been integrated in the reglementary section of the Code du patrimoine : article D 423-6 and following. The rules have not changed.
In the case of Fontainebleau, you are right to point out that this furniture was not lent by Fontainebleau to the Aveline gallery but rather the opposite : the Aveline gallery has instead lent its premises to Fontainebleau for this fundraising campaign.

Bruno Saunier

Version française

La Tribune de l’Art, jeudi 13 septembre 2012

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