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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. 166 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 The great hangings of the past were the natural expression of decoration in those days, the natural demand of pomp, of splendour and of comfort. As in all things great and small, the act is but the visible expression of an inward impulse, and we of to-day have not the spirit that expresses itself in the reverent building of cathedrals, or in the inspired composition of tapestries. This is to be entirely distinguished from appreciation. That gift we have, and it is momentarily increasing. To be entirely commercial, which view is of course not the right one, one need only watch the reports of sales at home and abroad to see what this latter-day appreciation means in pelf. In England a tapestry was recently unearthed and identified as one of the series of seven woven for Cardinal Woolsey. It is not of extraordinary size, but was woven in the interesting years hovering above and below the century mark of 1500. The time was when public favour spoke for the upholding of morality with a conspicuousness which could be called Puritanism, were the anachronism possible. Pointing a moral was the fundamental excuse for pictorial art. This tapestry represents one of The Seven Deadly Sins. Hampton Court displays the three other known pieces of the series, and he who harbours this most recent discovery has paid $33,000 for the privilege. But that is a tiny sum compared to the price that rumour accredits Mr. Morgan with paying for The Adoration of the Eternal Father (called also The Kingdom of Heaven). And this is topped by $750,000 paid for a Boucher set of five pieces. One might continue to enumerate the sales where enormous sums are laid down in appreciation of the men whose excellence of work we cannot achieve, but these sums paid only show with pathetic discouragement the completeness with which the spirit of commercialism has replaced the spirit of art, at least in the expression of art that occupies our attention. See larger image MODERN AMERICAN TAPESTRY, LOUIS XV INSPIRATION

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 167 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image MODERN AMERICAN TAPESTRY FROM FRENCH INSPIRATION If, then, this is not an age of production, but of appreciation, it, too, has its natural expression. First it is the acquiring at any sacrifice of the ancient hangings wherever they are found; and after that it is their restoration and preservation. This is the reason for recent high prices and the reason, too, for the establishment of ateliers of repair, which are found in all large centres in Europe as well as wherever any important museum exists in America. It would not be possible nor profitable to dwell on the tapestry repair shops of Europe. They have always been; the industry is one that has existed since the Burgundian dukes tore holes in their magnificent tapestries by dragging them over the face of Europe, and since Henry the Eighth, in eager imitation of the continentals, established in the royal household a supervisor of tapestry repairs. Paris is full of repairers, and in the little streets on the other side of the Seine old women sit in doorways on a sunny day, defeating the efforts of time to destroy the loved toiles peintes. But this haphazard repair, done on the knee, as a garment might be mended, is not comparable to the careful, exact work of the restorer at her frame. One ranks as woman’s natural task of nine stitches, while the other is the work of intelligent patience and skilled endeavour. Wherever looms are set up, a department of repair is the logical accompaniment. As every tapestry taken from the loom appears punctured with tiny slits, places left open in the weaving, and as all of these need careful sewing before the tapestry is finished, a corps of needlewomen is a part of a loom’s equipment. This is true in all but the ateliers of the Merton Abbey factory, of which we shall speak later. Apart from repairs, what is being done in the present day? So little that historians of the future are going to find scant pickings for their record. FRANCE The Gobelins factory being the last one to make a permanent contribution to art, the impulse is to ask what it is doing now. That is easily answered, but there is no man so optimistic that he can find therein matter for hope. France is commendably determined not to let the great industry die. It would seem a loss of ancient glory to shut down the Gobelins. Yet why does it live? It lives because a

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