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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. 32 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image THE SACRAMENTS Arras Tapestry, about 1430 See larger image

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 33 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 THE SACRAMENTS Arras Tapestry, about 1430 The drawing is full of simplicity and honesty, the composition limited to a few individuals, each one having its place of importance. In this, the early work differed from the later, which multiplied figures until whole groups counted no more than individuals. The background is a field of conventionalised fleur-de-lis of so large a pattern as not to interfere with the details thrown against it. Scenes are divided by slender Gothic columns, and other architectural features are tessellated floors and a sketchy sort of brick-work that appears wherever a limit-line is needed. It is the charming naïveté of its drawing that delights. Border there is none, but its lack is never felt, for the pictures are of such interest that the eye needs no barrier to keep it from wandering. Whatever border is found is a varying structure of architecture and of lettering and of the happy flowers of Gothic times which thrust their charm into all possible and impossible places. The dress, in the suite of ideals, is created by the imagining of the artist, admixed with the fashion of the day; but in scenes portraying life of the moment, we are given an interesting idea of how a bride à la mode was arrayed, in what manner a gay young lord dressed himself on his wedding morning, and how a young mother draped her proud brocade. The colouring is that of ancient stained glass, simple, rich, the gamut of colours limited, but the manner of their combining is infinite in its power to please. The conscientiousness of the ancient dyer lives after him through the centuries, and the fresh ruby-colour, the golden yellow of the large-figured brocades, glow almost as richly now as they did when the Burgundian dukes were marching up and down the land from the Mediterranean, east of France, to the coast of Flanders, carrying with them the woven pictures of their ideals, their religion and their conquests. The weave is smooth and even, speaking for the work of the tapissier or weaver, although time has distorted the faces beyond the lines of absolute beauty; and hatching accomplishes the shading. The repairer has been at work on this valuable set, not the intelligent restorer, but the frank bungler who has not hesitated to turn certain pieces wrong side out, nor to set in large sections obviously cut from another tapestry. It is surmised that the set contained one more piece—it would be regrettable, indeed, if that missing square had been cut up for repairs. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York owns these tapestries through the altruistic generosity of J. Pierpont Morgan, Esq. They are the most interesting primitive work which are on public view in our country, and awake to enthusiasm even the most insensate dullard, who has a half hour to stand before them and realise all they mean in art, in morals and in history. To the lives of the Prophets and Saints we can always turn; from the romance of men and women we can never turn away. And so when a Gothic tapestry is found that frankly omits Biblical folk and gives us a true picture of men and women of the almost impenetrable time back of the fifteen hundreds, tells us what they wore, in what manner they comported themselves, that tapestry has a sure and peculiar value. The surviving art of the Middle Ages smacks strong of saints, paints at full length the people of Moses’ time, but unhappily gives only a bust of their contemporaries.

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