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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. 170 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 Winterhalter’s portraits to be copied, gave to the modern tapissiers the paintings of the high Renaissance to reproduce. Titian’s most celebrated works were set up on the loom, as for example the beautiful fancy known as Sacred and Profane Love, which perplexes the loiterer of to-day in the Villa Borghese. Other paintings copied were Raphael’s Transfiguration, Guido René’s Aurora, Andrea del Sarto’s Charity. There were many more, but this list gives sufficiently well the condition of inspiration at the Gobelins up to the third quarter of the Nineteenth Century. Paul Baudry appeared at about this time striking a clear pure note of delicate decoration. The few panels that he drew for the Gobelins charm the eye with happy reminiscences of Lebrun, of Claude Audran, a potpourri of petals fallen from the roses of yesterday mixed with the spices of to-day. But if the work of this talented artist illustrates anything, it is the change in the uses of tapestries. The modern ones are made to be framed, as flat as the wall against which they are secured. In a word, they take the place of frescoes. The pleasure of touching a mobile fabric is lost. A fold in such a dainty piece would break its beauty. Almost must a woven panel of our day fit the panel it fills as exactly as the wood-work of a room fits its dimensions. The Nineteenth Century at the Gobelins was finished by mistakenly copying Ghirlandajo, Correggio, others of their time. In the beginning of this century, the spirit of pure decoration again became animated. Instead of copying old painters, the Gobelins began to copy old cartoons. The effect of this is to increase the responsibility of the weaver, and with responsibility comes strength. The models of Boucher, and the Grotesques of Italian Renaissance drawing are given even now to the weavers as a training in both taste and skill. But better than all is the present wisdom of the Gobelins, which has directly faced the fact that it were better to copy the tapestries of old excellence than to copy paintings of no matter what altitude of art. Modern cartoons are used, as we know, commanded for various public buildings in France, but the copying of old tapestries exercises a far happier influence on the weavers. If this is not an age of creation in art, at least it need not be an age of false gods, notwithstanding the seriousness given to distortions of the Matisse and post-impressionist school. A careful copying of old tapestries—and in this case old means those of the high periods of perfection—has led to a result from which much may be expected. This is the enormous reduction in the number of tones used. Gothic tapestries of stained glass effect had a restricted range of colour. By this brief gamut the weaver made his own gradations of colour, and the passage from light to shadow, by hatching, which was in effect but a weaving of alternating lines of two colours, much as an artist in pen-and-ink draws parallel lines for shading. Tapestries thus woven resist well the attacks of light and time. To sum up the present attitude of the Gobelins, then, is to say that the director of to-day encourages the education of taste in the weavers by encouraging them to copy old tapestries instead of paintings old or new, and in a reduction of the number of the tones employed. The talent of an artist is thus made necessary to the tapissier, for shadings are left to him to accomplish by his own skill instead of by recourse to the forty thousand shades that are stored on the shelves of the store-room. The manufactory at Beauvais, being also under the State, is associated with the greater factory in the glance at modern conditions. Both factories weave primarily for the

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 171 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 State. Both factories keep alive an ancient industry, and both have permission to sell their precious wares to the private client. That such sales are rarely made is due to the indifference of the State, which stipulates that its own work shall have first place on the looms, that only when a loom is idle may it be used for a private patron. The length of time, therefore, that must elapse before an order is executed—two or three years, perhaps—is a tiresome condition that very few will accept. See larger image THE ADORATION Merton Abbey Tapestry. Figures by Burne-Jones See larger image

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