Toile de Jouy, Oberkampf- The Early Years


Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf,
christened Christoph Philipp Oberkampf,
is known as the father of toile.


Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf- the early years

Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf is known as the father of toile. He was born in 1738 and died in 1815. Oberkampf was a German, who came from a long line of textile dyers. His father,  Philipp-Jacob Oberkampf, born in 1714, was the son of Mathéus, born in 1684, and grandson of Stephan, born in 1653. All of them were textile dyers, known for being good with color.  Philippe-Jacob Oberkampf moved from textile workshop to workshop, learning from each more about the dyeing of fabrics.

Philipp-Jacob Oberkampf settled in Wiesenbach, where he married, and there Christoph Philipp was born in 1738. ( Christoph Philipp changed his name in 1759 to Christophe-Philippe. )  A few years later a workshop in  Klosterheilbronn opened, and offered him a position as a dyer. Though he had been engaged to dye two color flannel fabrics,  he learned how to print blue on white fabric, which had been thought to be impossible. Prior to this the resist method of dying was used.

In 1749  Philipp-Jacob Oberkampf moved to Little Basel, on the Teich, in Germany, where he was employed by the owner by J. Ryhiner. It was here that Christoph Philipp began his apprenticeship. He was eleven years old. Prior to this he had worked as an errand boy in a nearby family owned dye works. From the age of 12, he accompanied his father as he offered his services to a succession of factories in Basel, Mulhouse, and Switzerland – relocating five times over eight years. At each factory Oberkampf learned more about the dying process.

Three years later, in 1752, his father left Ryhiner’s and started his own textile operation in an old paper mill. Christoph Philipp  went with him to continue his apprenticeship. But, the operation failed almost immediately,  and was transferred to a Herr Kupfer, formerly a calfskin maker in Bern. The Oberkampfs, with their belongings, walked to Switzerland.

In 1753 they both entered the Schaffisheim factory, near Lenzburg. The director was Brutelle. Christoph Philipp remained there as an engraver until 1755, when he left to work as a foreman in the factory his father had established in Aarau. He worked there for two years.

Christoph Philipp  left his father and worked for a short time  at the Koechlin-Dolfuss printing factory in Mulhouse, as an engraver, he was eighteen.  After six months, he was called home to Aarau by his father, where he taught what he had learned to his brother Friedrich Stephan.


There are several things that stand out to me about Oberkampf.

First, he was reared in Germany and Switzerland, not in France. This meant he and his family were not subjected to the restrictions that the French had to deal with in respect to cotton as a fabric and printing., which had been banned since the 1686.

Germany and Switzerland were two of the countries to where many of the dye workers had moved when Louis XIV invoked the Edict of Fontainebleau, which forced Protestants to convert to Catholicism if they wished to remain in France. And many of those were the people who had the technical knowledge for the dying processes.

He was also the fourth generation of a family of dyers. Which had to mean he acquired knowledge about fabric and dyeing from his relatives. And, he had moved from one dye house to another, learning new techniques at each one.



In 1758 he was approached and hired by  Francois Simon, who worked for the Cottin Factory in Paris. The factory was owned by an Englishman, Cabannes; Cottin was its director. Cottin’s textile works was on the River Bievre, at the bottom of the Mouffetard district in Paris. The  Gobelines Manufactory was also on the River Bievre, which was known for the quality of its water. The whole area along the river had textile companies, tanneries, and breweries.

Cottin’s textile works was basically a sweat shop, which had gone bankrupt twice. Oberkampf was hired as an engraver, and after a six month trial period became a colorist. He was highly skilled from the work with his father.  He was printing Indiennes with good color. He was paid 24 livres a week, and was able to save  600 livres.


At this point in time, cotton Indienne fabrics were still banned.  Though the ban was ignored by many of the aristocracy of France. On the throne of France was Louis XV, whose mistress was Madame de Pompadour. She ignored the ban, and  used Indiennes for her wardrobe and her furnishings. Madame de Pompadour was an extremely influential person. She was a  patron of the arts and of science, and she was partially responsible for the repeal of the ban. The reality was, France was losing out economically to other European countries that were selling their printed goods, which contributed to the ban being lifted.


Antoine Guerne, known as Tavannes, was the Controle General des Finances, the King’s Swiss in charge of general finance at Versailles. He heard that an edict was going to be signed,  lifting the ban on printed cotton fabrics with a forthcoming signature of the edict of free manufacture. He decided to open his own manufacturing textile factory in advance of the edict. The ban was lifted in 1759

Frederic Oberkampf had come to Paris to find his brother, and got a job as an engraver in Tavannes’ new factory, on rue de Seine-Saint-Marcel, also in the Gobelins quarter. Christophe-Phillppe was now the head of Cottin, and his brother suggested that Tavannes hire him.   Tavannes offered Christophe-Philippe the management of the new factory, which he agreed to, provided it was moved to a better spot for the manufacturing of textiles.

On January 2, 1760, Christophe-Philippe and his brother Frederic signed an agreement with Controle General des Finanaces, Antoine Guerne, known as Tavannes, the owner of the small workshop and they became a business partners.

Per the agreement he had made, Oberkampf looked for a new place for the new textile operation. He followed the River Bievre to its source-  near the town of Jouy-en-Josas.



For the background to this please see

French Toile Fabrics- a Look at Patterns




Histoire de la manufacture de Jouy et de la toile imprimée en France. TEXTE / Henri Clouzot | Gallica