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

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

The

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. http://www.justdogstrollers.com/26151-h/26151-h/26151-h.htm 140 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 German, these are Italian putti—yet when all is told, I put down the work as an Eighteenth Century copy of decadent Renaissance. But I am far from sure.” If a dealer, surrounded by experienced helpers, can thus be nonplussed, there is little cause for humiliation on the part of the amateur who hesitates. It is not expected that one can know at a glance whether a piece of work was executed in France, or in Flanders at a given epoch. But the more difficult the work of identification, the keener the zest of the hunt. It is then that one calls into requisition all the knowledge of art that the individual has been unconsciously accumulating all the years of his life. The applied arts reflect the art feeling of the age to which they belong, and the diluted influence of the great artists directs them. This is true of drawing and of colour. History has ever its reflection on arts and crafts, but perhaps it has in tapestry its most intentional record. It is a forced and deliberate piece of egoism when a monarch or a conqueror has a huge picture drawn exhibiting his grandeur in battle or his elegance at home. In some hangings modesty limits to the border of an imaginary and decorative scene the monogram of the heroine of history for whose apartments the tapestry was woven. And so history is given a grace, a delicate meaning, a warm interest, which is one of the side-gardens of delight that show from the long path of identification study. This little book has as its aim the gentle purpose of pointing the way to a knowledge that shall be a guide in knowing gold from—not from dross, that is too simple, but gold from gold-plating let us say, for the mad lover of tapestries will not admit that any hand-woven tapestry is on the low level of dross. Any work which human hands have touched and lingered on in execution is deserving of the respect of the modern whose life must of necessity be lived in hasty execution. Every chapter, then, is but a caution or a counsel, and this one but a briefer statement of the same matter. If onto the fringe of the main thought hangs much of history, it is history inseparable from it, for history of nations gives the history of great men, and these regulate the doings of all the lesser ones below them. Identification, pure and simple, is for the rapt lover of art who pursues his game in museums and has his quiet delights that others little dream of. But in general, to the practical yet cultivated American, it is a means to expend wisely the derided dollars that we impress upon other nations to the artistic enrichment of our own country. I CHAPTER XX BORDERS F the artists of tapestries had never drawn nor ever woven anything but the borders that frame them, we would have in that department alone sufficient matter for happy investigation and acutely refined pleasure. I even go so far as to think that in certain epochs the border is the whole matter, and the main design is but an enlargement of one of the many motives of which it is composed. But that is in one particularly rich era, and in good time we shall arrive at its joys. First then—for the orderly mind grows stubborn and confused at any beginning that begins in the middle—we must hark back to the earliest tapestries. Tracing the growth

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. http://www.justdogstrollers.com/26151-h/26151-h/26151-h.htm 141 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 of the border is a pleasant pastime, a game of history in which amorini, grotesques and nymphs are the personages, and garlands of flowers their perpetual accessories, but first comes the time when there were no borders, the Middle Ages. There were none, according to modern parlance, but it was usual to edge each hanging with a tape of monotone, a woven galloon of quiet hue, which had two purposes; one, to finish neatly the work, as the housewife hems a napkin; the other, to provide space of simple material for hanging on rude hooks the big pictured surface. This latter consideration was one of no small importance, as we can readily see by sending the thought back to the time when tapestries led a very different life (so human they seem in their association with men that the expression must be allowed) from that of to-day, when they are secured to stretchers, or lined, or even framed behind glass like an easel painting. In those other times of romance and chivalry a great man’s tapestries were always en route. Like their owner, they were continually going on long marches, nor were they allowed to rest long in one place. From the familiar castle walls they were taken down to line the next habitat of their owner, and that might be the castle of some other lord, or it might be the tent of an encampment. Again, it might be that an open-air exposition for a pageant, was the temporary use. The tapestries thus bundled about, forever hung and unhung on hooks well or ill-spaced, handled roughly by unknowing varlets or dull soldiers, these tapestries suffered much, even to the point of dilapidation, and thus arose the need for a tape border, and thus it happens also that the relics of that time are found mainly among the religious pieces. These last found safe asylum within convent walls or in the sombre quiet of cathedral shades, and like all who dwell within such precincts were protected from contact with a rude world. One day, sitting solitary at his wools, it occurred to the weaver of the early Fifteenth Century to spill some of his flowers out upon the dark galloon that edged his work. The effect was charming. He experimented further, went into the enchanted wood of such a design as that of The Lady and the Unicorn to pluck more flowers, and of them wove a solid garland, symmetrical, strong, with which to frame the picture. To keep from confounding this with the airy bells and starry corollas of the tender inspiring blossoms of the work, he made them bolder, trained them to their service in solid symmetric mass, and edged the whole, both sides, with the accustomed two-inch line of solid rich maroon or blue. It is easy to see the process of mind. For a long time there had been gropings, the feeling that some sort of border was needed, a division line between the world of reality and the world of fable. Examine the Arras work and see to what tricks the artist had recourse. The architectural resource of columns, for example; where he could do so, the artist decoyed one to the margin. Thus he slipped in a frame, and broke none of the canons of his art, and no more beautiful frame could have been devised, as we see by following up the development and use of the column. Once out from its position in the edge of the picture into its post in the border, it never stops in its beauty of growth until it reaches such perfection as is seen in the twisted and garlanded columns which flank the Rubens series, and those superb shafts in The Royal Residences of Lebrun at the Gobelins under Louis XIV. The other trick of framing in his subject which was open to the Arras weaver whom we call Gothic, was to set verses, long lines of print in French or Latin at top or bottom. But his first real legitimate border was made of the same flowers and leaves that made graceful the finials and capitals of Gothic carving. Small clustered fruit, like grapes or

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