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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. 34 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image FIFTEENTH CENTURY FRENCH TAPESTRY Boston Museum of Fine Arts See larger image THE LIFE OF CHRIST Flemish Tapestry, second half of Fifteenth Century. Boston Museum of Fine Arts Hangings portraying secular subjects were less often woven than those of religion and morals, but also the former have less lustily outlived the centuries, owing to the habit of tearing them from the suspending hooks and packing them about from château to château, to soften surroundings for the wandering visitor. Thus it comes that we have little tapestried record of a time when knights and ladies and ill-assorted attributes walked hand in hand, a time of chivalry and cruelty, of roses and war, of sumptuousness and crudity, of privation and indulgence, of simplicity and deceit. If prowling among old books has tempted the hand to take from the shelves one of those quaint luxuries known as a “Book of Hours,” there before the eye lies the spirit

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 35 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 of that age in decoration and design. There, too, lies much of the old spirit of morality —that, whether genuine or affected, was bound to be expressed. Morality had a vogue in those days, was a sine qua non of fashion. That famous amateur Jean, duc de Berry, uncle of Charles VI of France, had such a book, “Les Très Riches Heures”; one was possessed by that gifted Milanese lady whom Ludovico Sforza put out of the line of Lombardy’s throne. The wonderful Gothic ingenuousness lies in their careful paintings, the ingenuousness where virtue is expressed by beauty, and vice by ugliness, and where, with delightful seriousness, standing figures overtop the houses they occupy—the same people, the same battlements, we have seen on the early tapestries. Weavers must surely have consulted the lovely books of Gothic miniature, so like is the spirit of the designs to that in the Gothic fabrics. “The beauties of Agnes Sorel were represented on the wool,” says Jubinal, “and she herself gave a superb and magnificent tapestry to the church at Loches,” but this quaint student is doubtful if the lovely amante du roi actually gave the tapestries that set forth her own beauties, which beauty all can see in the quiet marble as she lies sleeping with her spaniel curled up at her lovely feet in the big château on the Loire. By means of a rare set bought by the Rogers Fund for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, we can see, if not the actual tapestries of fair Agnes Sorel, at least those of the same epoch and manner. This set is called The Baillée des Roses and comprises three pieces, fragments one is inclined to call them, seeing the mutilations of the ages. (Plate facing page 42.) They were woven probably before 1450, probably in France, undoubtedly from French drawings, for the hand and eye of the artist were evidently under the influence of the celebrated miniaturist, Jean Fouquet of Tours. Childlike is the charm of this careful artist of olden times, childlike is his simplicity, his honesty, his care to retain the fundamental virtues of a good little boy who lives to the tune of Eternal Verities. These three tapestries of the Roses illustrate so well so many things characteristic of their day, that it is not time lost to study them with an eye to all their points. There is the weave, the wool, the introduction of metal threads, the colour scale; all these besides the design and the story it tells. The tapestries represent a custom of France in the time when Charles VII, the Indolent (and likewise through Jeanne d’Arc, the victorious) had as his favourite the fascinating Agnes Sorel. During the late spring, when the roses of France are in fullest flower, various peers of France had as political duty to present to each member of the Parliament a rose when the members answered in response to roll call.

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