A generic term referring to printed calico depicting scenes from everyday life, featuring pastoral, flora and fauna, classical and mythological motifs. They originated in 1760 with Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf, who set up printing workshops in Jouy-en-Josas, just outside Paris, by the river Bièvre. Inspired by Indian block printing techniques, these were the first printed textiles in France and have come to typify the ‘French style’.
Toile de Jouy was initially printed on an off-white ground, in monochromatic designs that were typically in earth classics: red, blue, yellow and black, made from red madder, indigo, turmeric or saffron, iron and their derivatives, the very same dyes used in India for millenia. Softer blues, sepia tones, dulled pinks, mauves, blackberry tones and greys can all be found in antique fragments and collections.
Oberkampf hired the most talented artists of his time to design the motifs, most notably Jean-Baptiste Huet, and employed copper plate printing techniques–both contributed to the unsurpassed quality of toile-de-jouy prints and their fine detailed and hatched impressions. As with all furniture and furnishings, these toiles fell out of fashion, leading to the end of manufacturing in 1843, though nowadays the style has been revived. It’s interesting, and in many ways pleasing that its charm and simplicity is every bit as appreciated today as it was then. Toiles de Jouy have stolen many a heart, appealing in equal measure to the literate and the artisan.
Use for curtains, covers, upholstery, cushions, bedding. I like to see Toile de Jouy used en masse rather than disseminated; there is something really lovely about a ‘toile de jouy nest’, as the different patterns and hues mix very effectively. Toiles also combine well with silk, muslin, light calicoes, checks,, chintz and stripes in elegant silk taffetas as easily as with rough country weaves