Toile de Jouy

These elaborately patterned fabrics claim a rich history almost as storied as the scenes they depict. Still sought after for their exotic indienne likeness, and once banned by King Louis XIV to protect the French fabric trade, irresistible toiles possess the stylish appeal that constitutes a timeless classic.

These elaborately patterned fabrics claim a rich history almost as storied as the scenes they depict. Still sought after for their exotic indienne likeness, and once banned by King Louis XIV to protect the French fabric trade, irresistible toiles possess the stylish appeal that constitutes a timeless classic.

Toile de Jouy

Captivating storytellers, toile patterns have been adored the world over for their romantic imagery featuring flowers, fauna, and idyllic scenes of genteel country life. The craze began quickly when the first printed cottons were imported from India to France in the sixteenth century. Lightweight and washable, these wildly colorful block-printed indiennes were met with an exuberant fervor that virtually paralyzed the French fabric industry. So imminent was this threat of competition that, in 1686, King Louis XIV commanded an embargo on the importation of all cottons and issued a decree to arrest anyone who violated the ban. Despite these deterrents, the quest continued to flourish in secret. 

Toile de Jouy

When the ban was lifted in 1759, the coveted printed cottons eventually rebounded from their scandalous beginnings, and French factories regrouped in hopes of fulfilling the demand themselves. Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf was one of the first to manufacture block-printed textiles in France alongside the crystalline river Bièvre in the town of Jouy-en-Josas; hence, the expression toile de Jouy. It was only a matter of time before the industrious Oberkampf adapted the faster and more precise copperplate printing method, a technique already implemented in both England and Ireland that produced sharper engravings with expertly rendered variations of shading and light. This process paved the way for commissioned artists to design extensive patterns depicting elaborate themes and historical events with detailed human subjects and complex scenery. 

Toile de Jouy

To create a sumptuous feel that sets the standard for luxury, savvy interior designers often turn to stately toile de Jouy fabrics to achieve a majestic look. Here, yard upon yard of vibrant yellow-and-red toile trimmed with silk tassels, fringe, and cording give this bedroom a distinctive regal style. Draperies and plush bed dressings are fashioned from a retired pattern by F. Schumacher & Co. called Les Quatre Saisons.

Toile de Jouy

Not surprisingly, toile motifs continue to proliferate in the modern age with playful compositions such as the comic-strip-like Marquis de la Paillette. Created by fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, it portrays a cultural time line with jet planes, skyscrapers, and scenes from the eighteenth century.

Toile de Jouy 

Above left: This neoclassical-style toile print, flawlessly executed with precision detail, illustrates lavish bucolic scenes on an intricate diamond-patterned ground. Above right: A sophisticated black-and-cream toile wallpaper (a retired design from P. Kaufmann), above left, provides a stylish treatment for an elegant powder room.

To learn more about this pattern, see “Toile de Jouy” on page 64 of the September/October 2012 issue of Victoria magazine. 

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4 Comments

  • Every home that I have ever lived in has had a toile room. It is my favorite particularly the green and white toile wallpaper in my childhood room. It was a lovely print of dandelion wishes. I’ve never seen that toile anywhere else. Thanks for the toile.

  • We have had such a tragic loss in the available textile manufacturers in America. Fewer & fewer towels, sheets or fabrics are manufactured here anymore. I spent several years as an In-Home design consultant for the Calico Corners store in my state and I remember all these lovely toile patterns from Waverly/Schumacher as well as from Laura Ashley, Kaufmann & others. They were available in traditional blue on whites as well as greens, yellows, lavender, pink, reds, black, brown as well as multi-colors.
    So many of these wonderful fabrics have been lost to plants and manufacturers having to down size, close or go elsewhere. I am extremely saddened and disgusted that we cannot find more products such as these, made/manufactured here in our own United States, because if by chance you can find any of these treasures, we must now pay nearly $100 a yd. for them or more. Waverly/Schumacher also had coordinating wallpapers to match these fabrics as well, and the room that you’ve shown us would today, be in the thousands to duplicate.
    Do we have any recourse to get these artistically beautiful products made available to us here again ? (short of selling off our first-born children, that is).

  • I too lament the passing of beautiful fabrics and the ability to have quality soft furnishings made. In Sydney, Australia these establishments were for many years nestled in an area called Ultimo (Not far from the Rocks where our heritage began).
    There were names such as Wardlaw and Schumacher and on the other side of town Colefax & Fowler and
    Laura Ashley. Sadly the introduction of the “Minimalist look” (another word for cold and uninviting) has taken over with leather lounges and shutters replacing fabric curtains. I am holding fast to my lovely blue toile in our bedroom where I have Austrian blinds, padded bedhead and a Louis chair and footstool.
    “What goes around comes around” the saying goes. We can only hope one day someone will recognise beautiful
    fabric for what it is – something to get our creative juices going and to provide warmth and a feeling of comfort
    to our homes.

  • I also, always have had toile wallpapers and fabrics used for curtains or upholstery. I moved to Prague three years ago, bringing my toile table toppers, used over a white floor-length tablecloth. They have a strong tradition of sewing here so I went to several of the big fabric shops. There were many bolts suitable for costumes (the theater I also a strong tradition), but no one knew what I meant when I asked for toile. I even took a magazine clipping in. I imagined it was because French style never penetrated the Iron Curtain prior to 1989, but after reading the letters above, am worried. When I visit America this summer, I’ll look for myself. This is appalling!

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