Fleurs Tropicales et Palmiers (Tropical Flowers and Palm Trees)

Manufactory: Oberkampf Manufactory (French, active 1760–1843)

Date: 1787

Culture: French, Jouy-en-Josas

Medium: Cotton, block printed

Dimensions: Overall: 108 x 35 1/2 in. (274.3 x 90.2 cm)

Classification: Textiles-Printed

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1937

Accession Number: 37.170


The woodblock-printed cottons produced at Jouy are less well known today than the copperplate pictorial prints, but they represented the majority of the printed textiles produced there during the eighteenth century. Evidence exists to suggest that as many as 30,000 different woodblock designs were produced. The most common floral designs were small, generalized flowers that created an overall pattern. Other early block-printed cottons had floral designs based on botanical illustrations of native European species.

The design for fleurs tropicales et palmiers (tropical flowers and palm trees), as this pattern has become known, was probably based on motifs copied from Indian fabrics by a French textile designer and then rearranged and embellished. Part of the original design on paper exists in the Musée Oberkampf in Jouy, and it includes variations for several flowers which are adhered to the background on flaps. The design is typical of the Indian-inspired textiles of the period, both in the juxtaposition of scale and the combinations of the various motifs: individual flowers were drawn on a larger scale than entire trees, and botanical accuracy was ignored, as flowers and leaves of different species were freely mixed.

This design was divided into four areas, each of which required a set of woodblocks, one block for each color. After the main colors were printed, additional details were added by hand, for a total of nine colors. It could take up to six months to produce a printed textile of more than one color, and work could not proceed through the winter, as many of the activities took place outside.