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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. 26 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 I CHAPTER III MODERN AWAKENING N the Fourteenth Century, tapestry, the high-warp product, began to play an important part in the refinements of the day. We have seen the tendency of the past time to embellish and soften churches and monastic institutions with hangings. Records mostly in clerical Latin, speak of these as curtains for doorways, dossers for covering seats, and the backs of benches, and baldachins, as well as carpets for use on the floor. Subjects were ecclesiastic, as the favourite Apocalypse; or classic, like that of the Quedlimburg hanging which fantastically represents the marriage of Mercury and Philology. But in the Thirteenth Century the political situation had improved and men no longer slept in armour and women no longer were prepared to thrust all household valuables into a coffer on notice that the enemy was approaching over the plains or up the rocks. Therefore, homes began to be a little less rude in their comforts. Stone walls were very much the rule inside as well as out, but it became convenient then to cover their grim asperities with the woven draperies, the remains of which so interest us to-day, and which we in our accession of luxuriousness would add to the already gently finished apartments. To put ourselves back into one of those castle homes we are to imagine a room of stone walls, fitted with big iron hooks, on which hung pictured tapestry which reached all around, even covering the doors in its completeness. To admit of passing in and out the door a slit was made, or two tapestries joined at this spot. Set Gothic furniture scantily about such a room, a coffer or two, some high-backed chairs, a generous table, and there is a room which the art of to-day with its multiple ingenuity cannot surpass for beauty and repose. But such a room gave opportunity for other matters in the Thirteenth Century. Customs were less polite and morals more primitive. Important people desiring important information were given to the spying and eavesdropping which now has passed out of polite fashion. And those ancient rooms favoured the intriguer, for the hangings were suspended a foot or two away from the wall, and a man or a woman, for that matter, might easily slip behind and witness conversations to which the listener had not been invited. So it was customary on occasions of intimate and secret converse lightly to thrust a sharpened blade behind the curtains. If, as in the case in “Hamlet,” the sword pierced a human quarry, so much the worse for the listener who thus gained death and lost its dignity. Before leaving this ancient chamber it is well to impress ourselves with the interesting fact that tapestries were originally meant to be suspended loosely, liberally, from the upper edge only, and to fall in folds or gentle undulations, thus gaining in decorative value and elegance. This practice had an important effect on the design, and also gave an appearance of movement to human figures and to foliage, as each swayed in light folds. When considering tapestries of the Thirteenth Century we are only contemplating the stones of history, for the actual products of the looms of that time are not for us; they are all gathered into museums, public or ecclesiastic. The same might be said of tapestries of the Fourteenth Century, and almost of the Fifteenth. But those old times are so full of romance, that their history is worth our toying with. It adds infinite joy to

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 27 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 the possessing of old tapestries, and converts museum visits into a keen chase for the elusive but fascinating figures of the past. Let us then absorb willingly one or two dry facts. High-warp tapestry we have traced lightly from Egypt through Greece and Rome and, almost losing the thread in the Middle Ages, have seen it rising a virile industry, nursed in monasteries. It was when the stirrings of artistic life were commencing under the Van Eycks in the North and under Giotto and the Tuscans in the South that the weaving of tapestries reached a high standard of production and from that time until the Nineteenth Century has been an important artistic craft. The Thirteenth Century saw it started, the Fourteenth saw the beginnings of important factories, and the Fifteenth bloomed into full productions and beauty of the style we call Gothic. In these early times of the close of the Thirteenth Century and the beginning of the Fourteenth, the best known high-warp factories were centred in northern and midland provinces of France and Flanders, Paris and Arras being the towns most famed for their productions. As these were able to supply the rest of Europe, the skilled technique was lost otherwheres, so that later, when Italy, Germany and England wished to catch up again their ancient work, they were obliged to ask instruction of the Franco-Flemish high-warp workers.[5] It is not possible in the light of history for either Paris or Arras to claim the invention of so nearly a prehistoric art as that of high-warp tapestry, and there is much discussion as to which of these cities should be given the honour of superiority and priority in the work of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. Factories existed at both places and each had its rules of manufacture which regulated the workman and stimulated its excellence. The factories at Paris, however, were more given to producing copies of carpets brought from the East by returning crusaders, and these were intended for floors. The craftsmen were sometimes alluded to as tapissiers Sarrazinois, named, as is easily seen, after the Saracens who played so large a part in the adventurous voyages of the day. But in Paris in 1302, by instigation of the Provost Pierre le Jumeau, there were associated with these tapissiers or workmen, ten others, for the purpose of making high-warp tapestry, and these were bound with all sorts of oaths not to depart from the strict manner of proceeding in this valued handicraft. Indeed, the Articles of Faith, nor the Vows of the Rosicrucians, could not be more inviolable than the promises demanded of the early tapestry workers. In some cases— notably a factory of Brussels, Brabant, in the Sixteenth Century—there were frightful penalties attendant upon the breaking of these vows, like the loss of an ear or even of a hand. The records of the undertaking of the Provost Pierre le Jumeau in introducing the high-warp (haute lisse) workers into the factory where Sarrazinois and other fabrics were produced, means only that the improvement had begun, but not that Paris had never before practised an art so ancient. The name of Nicolas Bataille is one of the earliest which we can surround with those props of records that please the searcher for exact detail.[6] He was both manufacturer and merchant and was a man of Paris in the reign of Charles VI, a king who patronised him so well that the workshops of Paris benefited largely. The king’s brother becoming envious, tried to equal him in personal magnificence and gave orders almost as large as those of the king. Philip the Hardy, uncle of the king, also employed this designer whose importance has not lessened in the descent of the centuries. What makes Bataille of special interest to us is that we cannot only read of him in fascinating chronicles as well as dry histories, but we can ourselves see his wondrous

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