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Restoration retrospective: Louis XV velvet wallcovering

Estate History 04/21/15

Written By Judy Ross

One of the grandest guest rooms in Biltmore House—the Louis XV Room—had only a few reminders of its former beauty until its three-year restoration was completed in April 2009. Today, let’s take a closer look at the fabric that is the focal point of this room.

The Louis XV Room was used for storage and was on Biltmore’s behind-the-scenes tour for a number of years.

Its beautiful red and gold velvet wallcovering had become brittle over the past 100 years, leading to splitting and tearing, and exposure to light had faded the gold to more of a cream color. In 2007, Biltmore’s conservation staff began removal of the original fabric panels, carefully documenting and archiving the panels for storage.

Our curators turned to Tassinari & Chatel located in Lyon, France, to reproduce this important figured velvet. In business since 1680, Tassinari & Chatel is internationally renowned for its  brocades, damasks, cut velvets, and other silk fabrics. According to archival correspondence, George Vanderbilt purchased many fabrics from the company in the late 1800s for his new home.

The red and gold velvet was hand woven on century-old Jacquard looms, in the same manner as the cut velvets Vanderbilt purchased a century earlier.

Skilled artisans were able to weave two yards per week because of the intense time-consuming process. It took a total of 200 yards to complete the entire room.

Craftsmen repaired the intricate plaster moldings and trim in the room before the new wallcovering was installed.

Specialists were brought in to handle installation of the sumptous cut velvet panels.

The results are breathtaking—even six years later—with the richly adorned walls and draperies complimenting the delicate curves and rounded forms of the Louis XV style furnishings.

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