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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. 22 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 many cases they were woven entirely of gold and silver, and even set with jewels. These gorgeous fabrics shone like suns on the magnificent pomp of priest and ruler, and declared the wealth and power of the nation. They departed from the original intention of protecting shivering humanity from chill draughts or from close and cold association with the stones of architectural construction, and became a luxury of the eye, a source of bewilderment to the fancy and a lively intoxication to those who—irrespective of class, or of century—love to compute display in coin. But, dipping into the history of one ancient country after another, it is easy to see that the usual fabric for hanging was woven of wool, of cotton and of silk, and carried the design in the weaving. Babylon the great, Egypt under the Pharaohs, Greece in its heroic times, Rome under the Emperors—not omitting China and India of the Far East—these countries of ancient peoples all knew the arts of dyeing and weaving, of using the materials that we employ, and of introducing figures symbolic, geometric, or realistic into the weaving. Beyond a doubt the high loom has been known to man since prehistoric times. It may be discouraging to those who like to feel that tapestry properly belongs to Europe only,—Europe of the last six centuries—to find that the art has been sifted down through the ages; but in reality it is but one more link between us and the centuries past, the human touch that revivifies history, that unites humanity. People of the past wear a haze about them, are immovable and rigid as their pictured representations. The Assyrian is to us a huge man of impossible beard, the Egyptian is a lean angle fixed in posture, the Greek is eternally posed for the sculptor. But once we can find that these people were not forever transfixed to frieze, but were as simple, as industrious, as human as we, the kinship is established, and through their veins begins to flow the stream that is common to all humanity. These people felt the same need for elegantly covering the walls of their homes that we in this country of new homes feel, and the craftsmen led much the same lives as do craftsmen of to-day. Even in the matter of expense, of money which purchasers were willing to spend for woven decorative fabrics, we see no novelty in the high prices of to-day, the Twentieth Century. The Mantle of Alcisthenes is celebrated for having been bought by the Carthaginians for the equal of a hundred thousand dollars.

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 23 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image TAPESTRY FOUND IN GRAVES IN PERU Date prior to Sixteenth Century Thus we connect ourselves with the remote past in making a continuous history. But as the purpose of this book is to assist the owner of tapestries to understand the story of his hangings and to enable the purchaser or collector to identify tapestries on his own knowledge instead of through the prejudiced statements of the salesman, it is useless to dwell long upon the fabrics that we can only see through exercise of the imagination or in disintegrated fragments in museums. Then away with Circe and her leisure hours of weaving, with Helen and her heroic canvas, and the army of grandiose Biblical folk, and let us come westward into Europe in short review of the textiles called tapestry which were produced from the early Christian centuries to the time of the Crusades, and thus will we approach more modern times. So far as known, high-warp weaving was not universally used in Europe in the first part of the Middle Ages. Whether plain or figured, most of the fabrics of that time that have come down to us for hangings or for clothing, are woven, with the decorative pattern executed by the needle on woven cloth. In Persia and neighbouring states, however, the high-warp loom was used.[1] Europe in the Middle Ages was a place so savage, so devastated by war and by neighbouring malice, that to consider it is to hear the clash of steel, to feel the pangs of hunger, to experience the fearsome chill of dungeons or moated castles. It was a time when those who could huddle in fortresses mayhap died natural deaths, but those who lived in the world were killed as a matter of course. Man was man’s enemy and to be killed on sight. In such gay times of carnage, art is dead. Men there were who drew designs and

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