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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 20 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 About 300 A. D. E CHAPTER II ANTIQUITY GYPT and China, India and Persia, seem made to take the conceit from upstart nations like those of Europe and our own toddling America. Directly we scratch the surface and look for the beginning of applied arts, the lead takes us inevitably to the oldest civilisation. It would seem that in a study of fabrics which are made in modern Europe, it were enough to find their roots in the mediæval shades of the dark ages; but no, back we must go to the beginning of history where man leaped from the ambling dinosaur, which then modestly became extinct, and looking upon the lands of the Nile and the Yangtsi-kiang found them good, and proceeded to pre-empt all the ground of applied arts, so that from that time forward all the nations of the earth were and are obliged to acknowledge that there is nothing new under the sun. In the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is a bit of tapestry, Coptic, that period where Greek and Egyptian drawing were intermixed, a woman’s head adorned with much vanity of head-dress, woven two or three centuries after Christ. (Plate facing page 15.) In the Boston Museum of Fine Arts are other rare specimens of this same time. (Plates facing pages 16 and 17.) Looking further back, an ancient decoration shows Penelope at her high loom, four hundred years before the Christian era; and one, still older, shows the Egyptians weaving similarly three thousand years before that epoch. It is not altogether thrilling to read that civilised people of ancient times wove fabrics for dress and decoration, but it certainly is interesting to learn that they were masters of an art which we carelessly attribute to Europe of six centuries back, and to find that the weaving apparatus and the mode of work were almost identical. The Coptic tapestry of the Third Century is woven in the same manner as the tapestries that come to us from Europe as the flower of comparatively recent times, and its dyes and treatment of shading are identical with the Gothic times. Penelope’s loom as pictured on an ancient vase, is the same in principle as the modern high-warp loom, although lacking a bit in convenience to the weaver; and so we can easily imagine the lovely lady at work on her famous web, “playing for time,” during Ulysses’ absence, when she sat up o’ nights undoing her lovely stint of the day. And the Egyptian loom shown in ancient pictures—that is even more modern than Penelope’s, although it was set up three thousand years before, a last guide-post on the backward way to the misty land called prehistoric. But as there is really little interest except for the archeologist in digging so far into the past for an art that has left us but traditions and museum fragments, let us skim but lightly the surface of this time, only picking up the glistening facts that attract the mind’s eye, so that we may quickly reach the enchanted land of more recent times which yet appear antique to the modern.

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. http://www.justdogstrollers.com/26151-h/26151-h/26151-h.htm 21 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image COPTIC TAPESTRY Boston Museum of Fine Arts See larger image COPTIC TAPESTRY Boston Museum of Fine Arts There are those to whom reading the Bible was a forced task during childhood, a class which slipped the labour as soon as years gave liberty of choice. There are others who have always turned as naturally to its accounts of grand ceremony and terrible battles as to the accounts of Cæsar, Cœur de Lion, Charlemagne. But in either case, whatever the reason for the eye to absorb these pages of ancient Hebrew history, the impression is gained of superb pomp. And always concerned with it are descriptions of details, lovingly impressed, as though the chronicler was sure of the interest of his audience. In this enumeration, decorative textiles always played a part. Such textiles as they were exceed in extravagance of material any that we know of European production, for in

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