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The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image

The Tapestry Book, by Helen... - Yesterday Image


The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 128 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 woven by the master, Philip de Maecht. The borders are especially interesting, and carry the emblematic three feathers of the prince, as well as his monogram, in Mrs. von Zedlitz’s example, The Expulsion of Vulcan. (Coloured plate facing page 170.) It was this same series of Vulcan that was used as a text by Crane’s enemy to prove to the king, in 1630, that Crane was profiting unduly and dishonestly from the land grants given him in payment for arrears. The plaintiff speaks of this set as being “the foundation of all good tapestries in England.” We are fortunate in having pieces from it in America. Only by actual contact with the tapestry itself can the beauty of the colour and the work be known. We well believe the superior quality of the English wool when it lies before us in smooth expanse of subtle colour. And as for even weaving, it is there unsurpassed. Every inch declares the talent and patience of the craftsman. As for colour, it is on a low scale that makes blues seem like remembrance of the sea, and reds like faint flushings planned in warm contrast, while over all is thrown a veil of delicate mist that may be of years, or may have been done with intent, but is there to give poetic value to the whole of the artist’s scheme. See larger image THE EXPULSION OF VULCAN FROM OLYMPUS Sir Francis Crane died in 1636, and Captain Richard Crane succeeded him. And then began the decline of a factory which should have lived to save us deep regret. This second Crane could not carry on the work, and besought the king to relieve him by taking over the factory, which was thenceforth known as King’s Works. But civil wars came on in 1642 and other matters were more urgent than the production of works of art. So evil days fell upon the weavers. Then came the black day when Charles was beheaded. The Commonwealth, to do it justice, tried to keep alive the industry. They put at its head a nobleman, Sir Gilbert Pickering, and, to inspire the workers, brought a new model for design. They went to Hampton Court and took from there The Triumph of Cæsar, by Mantegna, to serve as new models. Some hope, too, lay in the weavers of the hour, clever Hollanders taken prisoners in the war; and all this while Cleyn directed.

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 129 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 But there were too many circumstances in the way, too many hard knocks of fate. People were too poor to buy good tapestries, and loose-woven, cheaper ones were heavily imported—to the amount of $500,000 yearly—from France and the Low Countries. Anti-Catholic feeling displayed hatred toward the able Catholic weavers, who were forced out of the country by proclamation. The sad end of this story is that in 1702 a petition was placed before the king asking permission to discontinue the Mortlake works. It was granted in 1703, and thus ended the English royal venture in England. I CHAPTER XVIII IDENTIFICATIONS DENTIFYING tapestries is like playing a game, like the solving of a piquant problem, like pursuing the elusive snark. I know of no keener pleasure than that of standing before a tapestry for the first time and giving its name and history from one’s own knowledge, and not from a museum catalogue or a friend’s recital. The latter sources of information may be faulty, but your own you can trust, for by delightful association with tapestries and their literature you have become expert. The catalogue is to be read, the friend is to be heard, in all humility, because these supply points that one may not know; but, who shall not say that an intensely human gratification is experienced when the owner of a tapestry with the Brussels mark tells you that it is a Gobelins, or one with the History of Alexander tells you it is the only set of that series ever woven, and you know better. The first thing that strikes the eye and the intelligence is the drawing, the general school to which it belongs. There is matter for placing the piece in its right class. It might be said to place it in its right century or quarter century, but that tapestries were so often repeated in later times, the cartoon having no copyright and therefore open to all countries in all centuries. Next, then, to fix it better, comes a study of the border, for therein lies many a secret of identity, and borders were of the epoch in which the weaving was done, even though the cartoon for the centre came from an earlier time. Last, as a finishing touch, come the marks in the galloon. This is put last because so often they are absent, and so often unknown, the sign of some ancient weaver lost in the mists of years, although a well-known mark so instantly identifies, that study of other details is secondary. But under these three generalising heads comes all the knowledge of the savant, for the truth about tapestries is most elusive. Knowledge is to be gained only by a lover of the objects, a lover willing to spend long hours in association with his love, prowling among collections, comparing, handling, studying designs, discerning colours, searching for details, and indulging withal a nice feeling for textures, a vision that feels them even without touch of the hand. If the study of design has not given a keen scent for the vague quality which we call “feeling,” the eye would better be trained still further, for herein lies the secret of success in difficult places, and not only that, but if he have not this sense he is

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