Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 26 >> Tao Te King to Telegraphy >> Tapestries_P1


tapestry, century, art, gothic, brussels, arras, centres, demand, hangings and style

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TAPESTRIES. The peristromata of the ancient Babylonians were highly praised by Lucretius, Plautus, Slichus, Martial and Italicus and have been considered as tapestry work of some kcincl. 'That they were a costly and greatly admired product is proven by such facts as that Metullus Scipio paid 800,000 sesterces (about $40,000) of their money for such work and Nero 4,000,000 (about $200,000). Homer writes of tapestries of great beauty woven by the Greeks; the Book of Exodus speaks of textile hangings done by the Hebrews. But all these may have been embroideries and not woven on a loom, for it certain the uSarrazinois carpets," made earlier than the 12th century, were of embroidery work, not woven. The walls of many European Con tinental churches and princely palaces were covered with high warp (haute lisse) tapestry hangings by the 13th century. And the tenter hooks are found on the walls of halls in man sions of the 14th century from which the tapestries were suspended. Certain textile fabrics have been unearthed from the remains of the ancient Panopolis (Fay-oum) which are true tapestries in our modern sense of the word. The history of their production is in doubt but they have been called "Coptic tapes tries?' They date from different periods rang ing from the 2d to the 8th or 9th centuries and have always been discovered in the form of narrow strips attached to clothing as a border decoration. These very ancient pieces display crude decorative designs in several colors.

Gothic By the 13th century, incited by the Oriental worlcs of art brought back by the returning Crusaders, Europe started an era 9f industrial art work. Flanders progressed most rapidly in the art of weaving tapestries and her °imaged cloths)* (draps images) produced at Arras quicicly became famous; so much so that the term °arras* soon became the familiar name for tapestry and still remains so in sorae languages. Brus sels became the next centre of this industry to be followed by Valenciennes and Tournay. From the last half of the 15th century to the middle of the 16th century the richness and pure beauty of the °Gothic* weavings produced have caused the period to be termed the Golden Age of tapestry; it is frequently referred to as the °Gothic-Renaissance.* Arras and Paris were now vieing with each other as the prin cipal centres of production. Every royal court and every baron and knight showed en thusiastic energy in acquiring these lovely coverings to hide the bareness of the stone walls and to act as curtains for the door open ings of their castle interiors. The work of the tapestry ateliers was pushed strenuously to meet the great demand; and when Paris fell to the British arms whole Flemish provinces were given over to the industry to meet Ifie still greater demand. But the persecutions of Charles the Bold drove the weavers (1477) from Flanders to bring a more flourishing in dustry to Brussels and Bruges tcr the loss of Arras and Liege. The tapestry products dating from 1483 to 1515 are generally considered by connoisseurs as the greatest achievements of the weavers' looms known from the point of pure art. But these beautiful hangings were not confined to the castles of royalty and nobility, for the wealth., merchants acquired

them and displayed them from windows and balconies for the admiration of the passing crowd when the streets were decorated in honor of royal and civic processions and fetes. The lists, at tournaments, were gay with such rich decorations. With the advance of time we find primitive stiffness in depiction, entailed with the Byzantine influence and ecclesiastical demands, gradually pass to the soft curves of naturalistic expression. The great space, for merly divided up into numerous scenes by quaint separating motifs of Gothic columns and arches, now becomes one of scenes blending into one another, later to be given over to one main scenih picture. The backgrounds that in the early Gothic weaves were occupied by dense masses of plant life (an Oriental decora tive 'method, 'doubtless acquired through the Crusades) and known to us as "verdures," pass to landscapes and castles lacking in perspec tive. These verdures are lcnown to the auc tioneer and his catalogue as amille-fleure on account of the many little blossoms peeping out from the leafage. Another distinctive style was called "a personnages" crowded in the background with persons streaming from hills, churches, palaces. Belonging to this early period of unequaled art we find such talented tapissiers as Nicolas (or Colin) Bataille, the Parisian, of the 14th century, who worked in France and Flanders; Jacques Dourdin, who worked under the Duke of Burgundy. A clever tapestry designer was Jan van Room (Jean de Rome) in Gothic-Renaissance style. These figure-decorated pieces are known as Renaissance.— The decadence of the tap estry art sets in with the 16th century; the textile now attempts to imitate the painted can vas, the weave in wool to simulate brush work in pigments. To get this strictly artificial effect the few simple woolen dyes have to be multi plied into innumerable hundreds of color tones and shades. The genius of a Raphael is called into play to design (1515) the "Acts of the Apostles ° set of cartoons for tapestries to adorn the Sistine Chapel at Rome. In about four years Peter van Aelst, at Brussels, had zeproduced the great work into color in the loom. They cost Pope Leo over $130,000, in money of that date. This ended the pure method of tapestry treatment in the Flemish ateliers and Renaissance painting in wool takes the place of Gothic, for the weavers of Brussels and other northern centres now got cartoons from Mantegna, Paolo Veronese, Andre del Sarto, Giulio Romano and other Italian artists to follow out on their looms. The "Acts of the Apostles" designs were later reproduced in most European centres. Wilhelm de Panne maker was noted for his work in this period and style, as were the Pannemaker family. With the enormously increased demand the ateliers Frew vastly in numbers and we have centres in Brussels, Arras, Tournai, Bruges, Enghien, Oudenarde, Middlebourg, Lille, Ant werp and Delft. As might be expected with a pressing demand much greater than the supply, haste and deterioration set in from careless .execution. Low warp (basse lisses) were started. Rubens was making cartoons for the Netherlands now.

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