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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. 174 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 his work was a private enterprise and in no way to be compared with the royal factory of a rich king. Burne-Jones drew the figures; H. Dearle, a pupil, and Philip Webb drew backgrounds and animals, but Morris held in his own hands the arrangement of all. It was as though a gardener brought in a sheaf of cut roses and the master hand arranged them. Mr. Dearle directed some compositions with skill and talent. With the passing of William Morris an inevitable change is visible in the cartoons. The Gothic note is not continued, nor the atmosphere of sanctity, which is its usual accompaniment. A tapestry of 1908 from the design of The Chace by Heyward Sumner suggests long hours with the Flemish landscapists of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, with a jarring note of Pan dragged in by the ears to huddle under foliage obviously introduced for this purpose. See larger image THE PASSING OF VENUS Merton Abbey Tapestry. Cartoon by Burne-Jones

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 175 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image ANGELI LAUDANTES Merton Abbey Tapestry But criticism of this aberration cannot hurt the wondrous inspired work directed by Morris, and which it were well for a beauty-loving world to have often repeated. Unhappily, the Merton Abbey works are bound not to repeat the superb series of the Grail. The entire set has been woven twice, and three pieces of it a third time—and there it ends. This is well for the value of the tapestries, but is it not a providence too thrifty when the public is considered? In ages to come, perhaps, other looms will repeat, and our times will glow with the fame thereof. Before leaving the subject of the Merton Abbey tapestries, it is interesting to note a technical change in the weaving. By intertwisting the threads of the chain or warp at the back, a way is found to avoid the slits in weaving that are left to be sewn together with the needle in all old work. This method has been proved the stronger of the two. The strain of hanging proves too great for the strength of the stitches, and on many a tapestry appear gaping wounds which call for yet more stitching. But in the new method the fabric leaves the loom intact. The determination of William Morris to catch old secrets by fitting his feet into old footsteps, led him to employ only the loom of the best weavers in the ancient long ago. The high-warp loom is the only one in use at the Merton Abbey works. AMERICA America makes heavy demands for tapestries, but the art of producing them is not indigenous here. We are not without looms, however. The first piece of tapestry woven in America—to please the ethnologist we will grant that it was woven by Zuñi or Toltec or other aborigine. But the fabric approaching that of Arras or Gobelins, was woven in New York, in 1893, in the looms of the late William Baumgarten. It is preserved as a curiosity, as being the first. It is a chair seat woven after the designs popular with Louis XV and his court, a plain background of solid colour on which is thrown a floral ornament. The loom was a small affair of the low-warp type, and was operated by a Frenchman who came to this country for the purpose of starting the craft on new soil. The sequence to this small beginning was the establishment of tapestry ateliers at Williamsbridge, a suburb of New York. Like the Gobelins factory, this was located in an old building on the banks of a little stream, the Bronx. Workmen were imported, some from Aubusson, who knew the craft; these took apprentices, as of old, and trained them for the work. The looms were all of the low-warp pattern. It may be of interest to those who like figures, to know that the work of the Baumgarten atelier averages in price about sixty dollars a square yard. Perhaps this will help a little in deciding whether or not the price is reasonable when a dealer seductively spreads his ancient wares. Modern cartoons of the Baumgarten factory lack the charm of the old designs, but the adaptations and copies of ancient pieces are particularly happy. No better execution could be wished for. The factory has increased its looms to the number of twenty-two, and has its regular corps of tapissiers, dyers, repairers, etc. Nowhere is the life of the weaver so nearly like that of his prototype in the golden age of tapestry. The colony on the Bronx is like a bit of old Europe set intact on American soil.

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