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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. 146 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 same time. But, alas, this is the ideal; the fact is that in the habit which weavers had of repeating their sets when a model proved a favourite among patrons, led them into providing variety by setting up a different border around the drawing. As this reproducing, this copying of old cartoons was sometimes done one or two hundred years after the original was drawn, we find an anachronism most disagreeable to one who has an orderly mind, who hates to see a telephone in a Venus’ shell, for instance. The whole thing is thrown out of key. It is as though your old family portrait of the Colonial Governor was framed in “art nouveau.” The big men, the almost divine Raphael, and later Rubens, felt so keenly the necessity of harmony between picture and frame, that they were not above drawing their own borders, and it is evident they delighted in the work. But Raphael’s cartoons went not only to Brussels, but elsewhere, and somehow the borders got left behind; and thus we see his celebrated suite of Acts of the Apostles with a different entourage in the Madrid set from what it bears in Rome. There is another matter, and this has to do with commerce more than art. An old tapestry is of such value that mere association with it adds to the market price of newer work. So it is that sometimes a whole border is cut off and transferred to an inferior tapestry, and the tapestry thus denuded is surrounded with a border woven nowadays in some atelier of repairs, copied from an old design. Let such desecrators beware. The border of a tapestry must appertain, must be an integral part of the whole design for the sake of artistic harmony. Frontispiece. FOOTNOTE: R CHAPTER XXI TAPESTRY MARKS EGARDLESS of what a man’s longing for fame may have been in the Middle Ages, he let his works pass into the world without a sign upon them that portrayed their author. This is as true of the lesser arts as of the greater. It was not the fashion in the days of Giotto, nor of Raphael, to sign a painting in vermillion with a flourished underscore. The artist was content to sink individuality in the general good, to work for art’s sake, not for personal fame. This was true of the lesser artists who wove or directed the weaving of the tapestries called Gothic, not only through the time of the simple earnest primitives, but through the brilliant high development of that style as shown at the studio of Jean de Rome, of the Brussels ateliers, through the years lying between the close of the Fifteenth Century and the Raphael invasion. Even that important event brought no consequence of that sort. The freemasonry

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 147 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 among celebrities in those days showed its perfection by this very lack of signed work. Everybody knew the man by his works, and the works by their excellence. Tapestry marks were non-existent as a system until the Brussels edict of 1528 made them compulsory in that town. Documents and history have been less unkind to those early workers, and to those of us who like to feel the thrill of human brotherhood as it connects the artist and craftsman centuries dead with our own strife for the ideal. Nicolas Bataille in 1379 cannot remain unknown since the publishing of certain documents concerning his Christmas task of the Apocalypse, and there are scores of known master weavers reaching up through the ages to the time when marks began. The Brussels mark was the first. It was a simple and appropriate composition, a shield flanked with two letters B. These were capitals or not. One was reversed or not, with little arbitrariness, for the mark was legible and unmistakable in any case, even though the weaver took great liberties—as he sometimes did. The place for this mark was the galloon, and it was usually executed in a lighter colour, but a single tone. BRUSSELS So much for the town mark, which has a score or more of variations. In addition to this was the mark of the weaver or of the merchant who gave the commission. A pity it was thus to confound the two, to give such confusion between a gifted craftsman and a mere dealer. One was giving the years of his life and the cunning of his hand to the work, while the other did but please a rich or royal patron with his wares. But so it was, and we can but study over the symbols and glean at least that the tapestry was considered a worthy one, reached the high standard of the day, or it would have had no mark at all. For it was thus that the marks were first adopted. They were for the protection of every one against fraud. High perfection made Brussels famous, but fame brought with it such a rush of patronage that only by lessening the quality of productions could orders be filled in such hot haste. Tricks of the trade grew and prospered; there were tricks of dyeing after a tapestry was finished, in case the flesh tints or other light shades were not pleasing. There was a trick of dividing a large square into strips so that several looms might work upon it at once. And there was all manner of slighting in the weave, in the use of the comb which makes close the fabric, in the setting of the warp to make a less than usual number of threads to the inch. In fact, men tricked men as much in those days as in our own. The fame of the city’s industry was in danger. It was the province of the guild of tapestry-makers to protect it against its own evils. Thus, in 1528, a few years after the weaving of the Raphael tapestries, the law was made that all tapestries should bear the Brussels mark and that of the weaver or the client. Small tapestries were exempt, but at that time small tapestries were not frequent, or were simple verdures, and, charming as they are, they lacked the same intellectual effort of composition. The Brussels guild stipulated the size at which the tapestry should be marked. It was given at six ells, a Flemish ell being about 27½ inches. Therefore, a tapestry under approximately thirteen feet might escape the order. But that was the day of large tapestries, the day of the Italian cartoonists, and important pieces reached that measure.

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