the Royal Tapestry Factory
the Royal Tapestry Factory

Real tapestry factory

Founded in the year 1721

The Royal Tapestry Factory has 300 years of experience in the manufacture and restoration of carpets, tapestries and confectioners

the Royal Tapestry Factory


Felipe V, in an attempt to boost the national economy, within the industry development policy that was to be developed during the 1719th century, and in view of the inability to satisfy the existing demand to decorate the Royal Sites, he decided to create a factory of tapestries in 1882, for which he hired the Flemish weaver Jacobo Vandergoten. The Factory was established in a building near the Portillo de Santa Bárbara, known as Casa del Abreviador, in the outskirts of the town, where it will remain until 1888. On that date Alfonso XII authorized the demolition of the Royal Tapestry Factory of Santa Bárbara to proceed to the quartering and expansion of Madrid, and ordered the construction of a new building in the Olivar and Huerta area of ​​the Atocha Convent. Its architect José Segundo de Lema finished the work in 1889-XNUMX, the year in which the new building was occupied, where the activity continues today.

general information 2

Spain, since the XNUMXth century, has been one of the main consumers of this type of luxury products, hosting one of the most important and numerous sets of old tapestry and carpet productions, mostly in the hands of the Administration and church. 

The long time that has elapsed and the conservation conditions - many times deficient - make the maintenance of this activity essential to clean, reintegrate, consolidate and, ultimately, preserve, such vulnerable and complex assets in their handling. This aspect was, from its origins, one of the main activities of the Royal Factory. 

The very function of the tapestry, its constant movement, its continuous segmented and assembled according to the needs of each moment, together with the mistreatment of users, have made it necessary to permanently rely on true specialists in its restoration and conservation, until the next use. Such a function would correspond to the “retupidor” master and the Royal Upholsterer, who had the help of an officer and two apprentices. But this work was not new: Before the 1746th century, the palace had specific facilities for these purposes, called the Furriera, where tapestries were cleaned and restored, keeping track of entries and exits. In fact, as a result of this need, the Vandergoten were appointed Helpers of the King's Office of Tapestry in XNUMX; Five years later, the head of the Office, accused them of using poor quality materials in the restoration, spending too much time on it and overcharging for their work, issues that must be framed within the jealousy and competence that existed in the Administration of then. The reality was that the Palace staff was unable to attend to the immense volume of existing tapestries and carpets, so Fernando VI chose to entrust them with the organization of these functions, and the Royal Factory was also born with these functions, apart from the actual manufacturing. again. 

Until today, the Royal Tapestry Factory had — and continues to be — entrusted with the function of preserving National Heritage carpets and tapestries, being responsible for their restoration and transfer. This work involves a series of specific technical aspects, currently highly specialized in terms of analysis, cleaning and restoration, incorporating the latest technological innovations in its processes, but without neglecting manual labor in reintegration or manual dyeing. Therefore, it is necessary to highlight the future aspects of the Royal Factory in these functions of conservation of the historical heritage, perhaps one of the most important and relevant functions with a view to its legal protection. 

Conservation currently focuses primarily on cleaning and consolidating degraded areas. With regard to cleanliness, natural dyes used to be very stable, especially in quality tapestries; not so later restorations or retuptures, whose dyes tend to dissolve easily in water. On the other hand, it must be considered that they are fabrics designed to be hung, with the sizes and consequent tensions that this implies. Being made lengthwise, that is, with the design lying down due to the determining factor of the width of the loom, made the weight of the tapestry unload on the weft and not on the strongest warp. Due to all these problems, at present it is sought to compensate these tensions by applying linen supports that avoid them or at least reduce them. For preventive conservation, it is vital to subject them to a general lining that provides a general distribution of the weight of the suspension, holding the most fragile areas and protecting the reverse from dust. Regarding reintegrations, traditionally applied, they are currently discouraged by international conventions, as they assume a false history and prevent differentiating the original from the successive reparations. In addition, the incorporation of new fibers can place excessive stresses on the old ones in many cases that are more than five hundred years old. For this, nowadays the density of the threads is changed, which easily differentiates the old from the new. Another method used is to use neutral colors that do not distort the visualization of the whole.

Every artisan trade has an inherent learning of essential knowledge for the development and survival of the activity. The way to acquire this knowledge has changed over time. Traditionally the work was hierarchical in master upholsterers, officers and apprentices, following the scheme of most of the trades structured in guilds. For this reason, the apprentices were often the children of the factory workers themselves, entering the factory at a very young age, and were learning the trade "in situ". After long years of practice and after passing the corresponding tests, they could finally acquire the status of weaver. 

As a continuation of this formative aspect, in 1998 the first Royal Tapestry Factory Workshop School was created in order to gradually replace the older staff and in this way give continuity to these professions on the way to extinction. As of the year 2000, some students of the first class became part of the Foundation's workforce, continuing in this way until today. 

The training in these fields of new generations of specialists is especially important when it comes to allowing the development of another of the fundamental aspects of an installation 

of these characteristics: The restoration and conservation mentioned in the previous section. 

Despite the scant information on this subject that has survived in the archives of the Royal Tapestry Factory, different references allow us to deduce something about the way work is organized and its internal structure. In this file there are no employment contracts or examination letters, common —on the other hand— in trade union organizations. The account books and the salary books are the documents from which the number and duties of the different employees can be deduced. 

Originally, its structure, derived from dependence on the Crown, established the figure of the superintendent as responsible to the King for the operation of the factory and a technical direction. Bernardo Cambi would be in charge of materializing the order of Cardinal Alberoni, minister at the time of Felipe V, to create a Royal Factory in this matter. After committing Jacobo Vandergoten, the Elder, to travel with his family and instruments from Antwerp, he entrusted the technical direction of it. This structure would be maintained for the next thirteen years. 

Although there were numerous specialized looms in this art, both inside and outside Madrid, and numerous applications for admission, only six Spaniards succeeded, due, among others, to the poor training and inferior quality of the cloths made by the existing workshops until that time. moment, with respect to the standards that were intended to be achieved for real manufactures. In fact, Jacobo Vandergoten brought four officers from Flanders and his own children. At his death in 1724, his son Francisco succeeded him at the head of the workshop, leaving his three brothers as weavers. In 1731 salaries were paid quite irregularly, among other reasons due to the permanent economic bankruptcy of the State, dependent on periodic shipments from the Indies. Thus, the Flemish officers Juan Dilles and Pablo Ros, charged six silver reales a day; Pedro Vandergoten and Nicolás de Castro, five reales and of the eight apprentices, three did not charge. At that time, production separated the responsibilities of the low and high heddle looms, the Frenchman Lainger having installed the latter with two officers and five apprentices. In addition, the factory had a cardboard painter who charged six silver reales a day, a responsibility that fell to Jaime Allemans; an overseer, busy with administration and accounts, with a salary of fifteen reales, and the director of the factory with an allowance of 1.500 ducats. It should be noted that the professional "career" began at an early age, entering as an apprentice and ending up as a weaver after years of work. Most of the time it was a family tradition. 

The continuous arrears in payments, made the operators stand, forcing Francisco Vandergoten to write a memorial in which he stated, among others, that the only salvation of the factory was to be left as sole administrator, a fact that would occur in 1744. He asked the Public Treasury to pay for the "ana" performed and for the means of production such as bobbins, looms, sticks and cords, leaving him free to assign the salaries of officers and apprentices, according to their qualifications and performance. It also envisaged the importation of raw materials from Flanders, as well as paying for the time dedicated to training, this last chapter of special sensitivity to the wishes of the Crown, very interested in creating a productive fabric on a national scale. However, it will be Francisco Vandergoten himself who hinders this objective, insofar as he intended to avoid competition. 

It should be noted that, just as in the Netherlands the responsibility for drawing fell to the master upholsterer, in France the design was separate, falling to a renowned painter, considering that the work of the upholsterer was subordinate to him. This scheme was in force until the moment in which the figure of the Royal Intendant disappears and all management falls to the Vandergoten family, by contract and after the memorial of Francisco to the King, justifying this need. 

In 1733, after the transfer from Seville of the factory created by Jacobo Vandergoten, five officers and six apprentices with similar emoluments were documented. 

In 1745, the factory staff was four teachers, twenty-five officers, eight apprentices and eight laborers, out of a total of six looms, and in 1780, 90 people were employed, including children and adults, plus an undetermined number.

 spinners who worked in their homes. From 1760 the number of looms rose to fifteen. In 1809, the number dropped to 60 workers, as a consequence of the destruction produced in the facilities during the War of Independence and the decrease in demand. It is necessary to highlight the late access to work for women, who in those years would be favored in spinning work with the creation of the Schools of Arts and Crafts. As for the children, as already noted, they entered as apprentices, often doing jobs that only they could do with their little hands. 

Like the Guilds, the Royal Tapestry Factory had its own Brotherhood (1745) under the invocation of Saint Genoveva, Princess of Brabant, whose purpose was to provide medical assistance and medicines, as well as cash aid in case of illness. and burial expenses. In 1750, the invocation changed to that of Jesus and Mary. Its headquarters would initially be the factory itself, moving to the convent of Santa Bárbara and later to the Church of the Hospital de San Andrés de los Flamencos. As of 1832, all reference to the Brotherhood disappeared, being replaced, with the social upheavals of those years, by the Royal Tapestry Factory Workers' Society, which would evolve until the assumption by the State of social security. From this chapter, the bylaws of the two brotherhoods, statutes of the Mutual Relief Society, as well as account books, a list of associates and the payments they made are kept in the Factory file.

Its architect, José Segundo de Lema, architect of the Monarchy, designs the new factory in the Olivar and Huerta area of ​​the Atocha Convent; His project, drawn up in 1884, was completed in 1888-1889, the year in which it was put into operation 

again the manufacturing activity of creation and restoration of tapestries and carpets. The architect Enrique Repullés y Segarra collaborated in the project. 

The Factory occupies a 70 x 100 meter parallelepiped-shaped plot, which constitutes a complete block. 

The main building of symmetrical composition, with a central body in three heights and two lower sides organized around a garden patio with isolated pavilions for the dyeing office, the cleaning room, the drying rooms, the stable and the garage. 

Brick masonry walls, prevailing neo-Mudejar style at the time, with a beautiful layout, quite sober, stone plinths of ashlar or masonry, facades marking floor levels and eaves. Interesting staggered fronts. 

On the ground floor of the central body, the director's office, offices, the doorman's house and three rooms for other employees were arranged. The first floor was reserved for the director's residence and the second for the administrator's. On the two lower sides, new construction workshops were installed and on the upper floor those for drawing and painting. In short, a group of workshops, warehouses, a patio and accommodation gathered in the same building, according to the industrial architectural guidelines, already used in the previous century. 

Lately, restoration-rehabilitation of the factory building has been carried out, which continues its artisan production, providing it with new facilities for cultural purposes: Archive, library, school workshop, exhibition hall and modern laboratories for the restoration and cleaning of tapestries and carpets. 

The buildings are the result of a series of interior reforms adapted to the current needs of the factory, plus a fairly new building, restructured from a previous one that tries to follow the model of the rest of the buildings. 

The historical perimeter buildings, whose facades have been respected, are in need of a careful and thorough restoration faithful to their original construction. 

In the main building with access from Calle Torrelaguna, its central body is destined on the ground floor to the offices of the factory itself, its management, reception of visitors and clients, as well as a permanent exhibition gallery. On the two upper floors, the two houses that originally belonged to the director and administrator of the Royal Factory are kept. 

The sides of this building, originally two storeys, are currently on the ground floor in the tapestry and carpet manufacturing warehouses with eleven high heddle looms in use and a small one for exhibition. On the upper floor of this section of building, the wool warehouse. On the opposite side (also on Calle Fuenterrabía), the slab on the upper floor was eliminated, leaving a magnificent nave for temporary exhibitions. The part of the building that faces Julián Gayarre street, its lower floor is used for warehouses and the upper floor for a restoration workshop, currently rented to the Prado Museum. On the side of the building that faces Andrés Torrejón street, the carpet restoration workshops and changing rooms are located in the semi-basement. The ground floor is used for toilets for staff and factory archives, a warehouse for sketches and cardboard, and for historical documentation. The upper floor is occupied by the workshop school. 

The building that was located in the middle of the garden was demolished and replaced by another one occupied on a similar floor and currently destined for the following uses: Carpet rack (the original fireplace has been maintained), changing rooms and toilets area on two floors, workshop for tapestry restoration, dyeing office, storage of materials and archives, and area for washing and vacuuming carpets and tapestries with its corresponding drying facility. This building is quite out of tune with the historical ones, but it fulfills an important function in the manufacturing, conservation and maintenance process. 

The buildings bordering Vandergoten Street, are the historic ones, used in their day to house staff and warehouses, currently unused, they are in a poor structural condition, in need of urgent restoration. 

In the gardens, the original layout of the Royal Factory is maintained, the washing basins and drying areas, the paths and routes for access from one area to another, and to a large extent the existing paving of these paths are preserved. All of it 

it is part of the whole and will have to be respected, maintained and restored in successive stages. Also interesting is the existing trees whose species are indicated on the plans. 

Several sheds and small pavilions located inside the block and adjoining main buildings complete the service units of the establishment, out of tune with them. Its remodeling will have to be studied. 

Regarding its use as Industry, it is the same for which it was conceived, making it compatible with the conservation of the Property. The buildings that have survived to this day maintain, with exceptions, the volumetric configuration of the originals; Almost all of them are found on the perimeter of the block, configuring the rest of the estate, a beautiful historic garden, with the original design. 

The building block in which the Royal Factory is located is located within the Villa de Madrid Enclosure, declared “Historic Complex” by Decree 41/1995, of April 27, published in the OFFICIAL BULLETIN OF THE COMMUNITY OF MADRID of May 22, 1995. 

Analysis with respect to the current General Urban Planning Plan of Madrid: 

According to the Catalog of protected elements "A" "Buildings" of the General Plan, the aforementioned complete block, all of it belonging to the Royal Tapestry Factory, is cataloged within the Protection Level "A with the degree of Integral Protection". 

According to the Catalog of protected elements "B" "Singular Elements" of the General Plan, said block is classified as "Parks and Gardens" with a level "1" of Protection. 

Level “1”: The spaces that preserve their representative garden layout of a certain period or maintain plant species and other elements of singular relevance, whose survival is necessary for the correct historical reading of the city, have been included in this level. 

In short, the tapestry, as a work of art and therefore as a reflection of the aesthetic and cultural ideas of its time, becomes a historical and cultural document of the first order. Consequently, the Royal Tapestry Factory, exponent and witness of its historical trajectory, is worthy of special protection. 

Spain, and specifically, National Heritage, has one of the best collections of tapestries in the world, both in quality, for its great historical and artistic value, and for its quantity, with more than 1.500 pieces. The origin of its collections is to be found in the collection of flamenco cloths started by Queen Isabel la Católica, later increased by the orders made by all the kings of the House of Austria, and enriched by the House of Bourbon with the tapestries woven in the Royal Tapestry Factory of Madrid. It reflects the history of the best Flemish manufactures of the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, as well as the Royal Tapestry Factory, since it preserves most of its production. These tapestries can currently be seen exhibited in all the Royal Sites as well as in Embassies, Ministries and other State Institutions. 

The Royal Factory is one of the two that still survive from the numerous group created by the Spanish Monarchy in its desire to modernize the industry and reduce dependence on foreign imports, a policy promoted at the time by the Minister of Luis XIV, Colbert, and that his grandson took as a model after his assumption of the throne of the Spanish monarchy. At the time it was the first to be created and the only one that has, for the most part, kept the production process unchanged - purely artisan in terms of its actual production of products - from the moment of its creation, which highlights its importance and uniqueness. 

It is necessary to highlight the future aspects of the Royal Factory in the preservation of historical heritage, perhaps one of its most important functions. The Royal Factory continues to be entrusted with the function of preserving National Heritage carpets and tapestries, being responsible for their restoration and transfer, extending this essential activity to private elements. In this work, the latest technological innovations have been incorporated into their processes, but without neglecting manual labor in reintegration or manual dyeing. 

Converted into a Foundation, the Royal Manufacture takes on the challenge of continuing the artisan production of tapestries, rugs and confectioners and, also, of training new artisans, thus guaranteeing the survival of some trades in danger of extinction that have been and are one of the most extraordinary expressions of the sumptuary arts. 

Another element of great interest is its documentary and graphic archive, generated over the centuries, as a product of the Factory's activity. Its fundamental conservation is considered, not only for its historical content, but also because it constitutes a repertoire of the sketches and cartoons that were carried out throughout the centuries, from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXst. 

As for the existing movable heritage, it should not be forgotten that, with some exceptions, it is still in use. For this reason, it must be linked to production or handling processes rather than including them as individualized movable property with its own relevance, which would entail legal conservation obligations, contradictory to the situation of use in which they are found. However, with the exception of some lathes, the rest of the machinery and instruments valued lack artistic or historical value, since their prolonged use has forced, over time, to progressively replace parts and elements due to their deterioration, therefore that currently it cannot be said that what remains has any of these values. 

It should be noted that, with the disappearance of the Guilds Foundation, this Royal Tapestry Factory would be the only Institution that would remain in Spain with the trajectory, professional solvency and capacity to address the production, restoration and conservation of this rich legacy. It is therefore absolutely essential to document, protect, maintain and reinforce this activity and facilities, as, on the other hand, the different Administrations that preceded us have done. 

Finally, one of the main challenges of the declaration as Asset of Cultural Interest of the Royal Tapestry Factory, is the definition of the figure of protection in which to fit the multiple facets that define it. 

The idea that generated the concept of "Royal Factory" in the XNUMXth century, obviously does not respond to an ethnographic or industrial heritage. The idea behind this concept is that of an exclusive, singular and prestigious heritage, at the service of the Crown, as a decorative art for the adornment of palaces and religious buildings. It was only with the passage of time, when it began to be permeable to the rest of society, once its objective was completed first. However, it will not be applied to the entire population, but only to the wealthiest classes and the Church, in order to incorporate elements of prestige into their social rank and / or their buildings. This is the reason why it cannot be linked to the “ethnographic heritage”, although from a technological point of view some looms and tools are used that could resemble or be the same as those generally used by the rest of the population in the elaboration of fabrics or in the transformation of the raw materials used. 

From the point of view of the concept of “industrial heritage”, there is no doubt that its definition underlies an improvement of the product and its reduction in price through technological innovations. However, in these productions -as the abundant bibliography consulted insists-, the economic criterion was irrelevant compared to the results, on which the reputation of the Royal Institution depended, to a certain extent, in relation to similar productions of other European royalty. In fact, at certain times, those excessive expenses and that unconditional support, ended up being a terrible burden for the public coffers and an unfair competition for the private initiative, in clear contradiction with the enlightened idea that generated it, which sought to serve as an example and spur for the economy. 

In this sense, the process of making tapestries or rugs cannot be said to have undergone significant changes. In reality, it has only adapted to technological changes in minor aspects, those related to the transformation of raw materials. It will be, on the other hand, in the aspect of "retupido" or restoration in which more technological changes are incorporated, in cleaning, conservation and various treatments, for the obvious reasons of allowing better final results in accordance with the currently accepted criteria. Such would be the case of the use of carpet cleaning machines, as opposed to the previous "hitting" systems, or fabric washing systems that incorporate the latest technology in detergents, physical-chemical conditions of the water, deposits, drying. or manipulation in general. This natural evolution will be enriched with the incorporation of information technology in the process of making copies of the cartons for their adaptation to the required sizes and transfer to the warps. However, these changes, which began in the first decades of the XNUMXth century, in no way alter the essence of the artisanal elaboration of these tapestries or rugs, which keep intact the ways of making from the XNUMXth century or even earlier. 

That is why it cannot be classified as an activity linked to the so-called “industrial heritage”. It should also be pointed out that it is in this Royal Factory where the fewest changes have occurred since its origins. Others, such as glass -to give an example-, incorporated the latest technological advances of its time, already truly industrial, both in the elaboration and handling itself and in the productions themselves, with the use of ovens, molds or in the production of glass sheets for crystals that would bring so many changes in the realization of large windows and in the irruption of Light in the rooms, so characteristic from the XNUMXth century. 

As for the building, the architecture would clearly respond to the activity for which it was intended. Its configuration as a closed block, in which all the activities related to the production of raw materials, the production itself, storage and the conservation and restoration of these textiles were concentrated, including the homes of both its managers and some of their employees, clearly responds to the illustrated idea generated in the eighteenth century, although the building dates from the end of the nineteenth. There is no doubt that it has a certain stylistic value, although its uniqueness must necessarily be linked to those other values ​​mentioned above. 

Despite the fact that article 1.3 of Law 10/1998 on the Historical Heritage of the Community of Madrid, in its last paragraph, establishes the intangible heritage as a member of the historical heritage in its “applied arts” aspect, the “protection figures ”Included in the consideration of Asset of Cultural Interest do not include any in which the activity of production of upholstery fits properly. 

The category of application will be that of Monument [article 9.2.a) of Law 10/1998 on Historical Heritage of the Community of Madrid], in which the building would be the physical support of the activity, although there is no doubt that this The latter should itself be worthy of singular protection. 

From this point of view, the protection environment can be specified in turn in the complete block, occupied by the Royal Tapestry Factory, and which is delimited by the streets of Fuenterrabía, number 2, with turn Calle Julián Gayarre, numbers 4 and 6; with a turn on Vandergoten street, with a turn on Andrés Torrejón street.

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As a consequence of the development of the Factory during these three centuries, an Archive has been formed that contains important historical and graphic collections (sketches, cartoons ...), currently in the process of computerization and digitization, and that by itself constitutes a singular unit . 

The historical documentation is made up of some 520 files, 2.000 files and 200 account books, currently in the process of computerization, which contain correspondence, actual orders, contracts, delivery notes and invoices from painters, upholsterers and suppliers, and so on. Documentation that allows us to reconstruct from the private life of the Factory directors, to the vicissitudes of manufacturing, the society of their time or of the city of Madrid itself, as well as the genesis and creation of a tapestry. 

The Graphic Archive contains more than 2.500 designs for making carpets, tapestries and confectioners, collected in a computerized inventory. The tapestry cartoons that the Royal Factory currently conserves are not the originals, as they are found in museums such as El Prado or the Municipal Museum of Madrid, or in the various Royal Palaces. Most are reproductions in watercolor or gouache on paper or cardboard, made by the Royal Factory's cartoonists —Francisco Javier Amérigo, Faustino Álvarez Quintana, Aurelio Sánchez López, Ricardo Sánchez Pardo, among others—, which chronologically span from the 2005th century to the 1870th, the most numerous being those belonging to the XNUMXth century. It also preserves a good number of carpet sketches ranging from the last quarter of the XNUMXth century to XNUMX, made by artists such as Amérigo, to which the oldest sketch corresponds (XNUMX). 

Therefore, although the originals are not preserved, the conservation of this archive is essential, since these copies, much of them of high quality, constitute a repertoire of the cartoons that were produced throughout the centuries, from the XVIII to XXI. It thus becomes a historical testimony of the cartoons that the great painters made not only for the Crown, but also for the nobility and for prominent institutions of the country throughout the life of the Royal Factory. On the other hand, these repertoires constitute the models that are currently being reproduced.

For more information visit the website of the Royal Tapestry Factory