The birth of the factory
The history of the factory began with a cloth merchant based in Paris in the late 18th century. This small family business expanded into the sale of tapestry and prospered greatly from 1842 onwards with the arrival of Alexandre Braquenié as a partner in the business. In 1884, the company was awarded two gold medals for its carpets and tapestries at the Paris Exposition Universelle. The company exhibited at many more events, always winning prizes, and also supplied furnishings for the house of the Emperor and the national palaces of Tuileries and Saint-Cloud. In 1858 the company was rebranded as “Braquenié Frères”.
The following year, the Braquenié brothers decided to set up a large establishment in Aubusson, as until then, they had operated from a single workshop. They purchased the site of a carpet factory and drew up plans for a new factory whose construction began in 1860 and was completed 2 years later. Alexandre Braquenié subsequently left his brother to oversee the Paris establishment and settled in Aubusson. One of the decisions he made was to break with the tradition of needlework tapestries known as ‘point tapestries’ in favour of table covers, canopies and chairs. The production of these items, mainly carried out by women, provided work for many individuals in the Creuse region.
At the peak of its success, Braquenié Frères was a high-society supplier. The reputation of the company stretched beyond the borders of France, attracting wealthy clients from Spain, Italy, Mexico and above all, Russia. In 1867, the Braquenié brothers won the gold medal once again at the Paris Exposition Universelle thanks to tapestry boards designed by Mazerolle and Galland, amongst others. In 1873, Theodore Roosevelt commissioned the Braquenié factory to create a velvet carpet and in 1877 the company produced tapestries for the throne of Pope Pius IX.
The chaotic 20th century
The output of the factory reduced significantly during the First World War. In the 1920’s, there were preliminary attempts at a revival, with the production of tapestries using innovative Art Deco-style cartoons exhibited at the International Exposition of Decorative Arts in 1925.
But on the 12th October 1926, a fire broke out and devastated the main part of the factory. It was rebuilt in 1927, but just as the business was getting back on its feet, it was knocked sideways by the stock market crash of 1929. The economic crisis led to the redundancy of over a hundred workers, despite the securing of notable orders including Ruhlmann carpets for the SS Normandie ocean liner.
The Second World War isolated the factory in Aubusson, which was located in an unoccupied area, from its Belgian colleagues and Parisian headquarters. In 1945, it employed just fifty weavers compared with two hundred in the late 19th century.
Between 1945 and 1963, the Braquenié brand attempted to relaunch production on the back of the revival of wall tapestries, in keeping with Jean Lurçat and his peers. In the fifties, the workshops of Aubusson turned to abstraction and the fusion of materials. But activity had reduced relentlessly and with a dire situation continuing to prevail, the Aubusson factory closed its doors in 1992. Ownership of the site was transferred to the local council, who decided to open a children’s centre.
- 9. Cité de la Tapisserie
- -1. Braquenié factory
During the second half of the 19th century, Braquenié was one of the largest manufacturers of carpets and tapestries in Aubusson. Listen to the story of the creation of this factory, which received awards for its work on several occasions and was successful in conquering high-end markets in both France and abroad.