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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. 46 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 centuries. They are not the grandiose affairs of the Renaissance whose voluptuous development contains the arrogant assurance of beauty matured. They do not crown a column or trail themselves in foliated scrolls; but are just as Nature meant them to be, unaffected bits of colour and grace, upspringing from the sod. In the cathedral at Berne is a happy example of the use of these sweet flowers, as they appear at the feet of the sacred group, and as they carry the eye into the sky by means of the feathery branches like fern-fronds which tops the scene; but we find them nearer home, in almost every Gothic tapestry. It was about the end of the last Crusade when Italy began to produce the inspired artists who broke the bonds of Byzantine traditions and turned back to the inspiration of all art, which is Nature. Giotto, tending his sheep, began to draw pictures of things as he saw them, Savonarola awoke the conscience, Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio—a string of names to conjure with—all roused the intellect. The dawn of the Renaissance flushed Europe with the life of civilisation. But before the wonderful development of art through the reversion to classic lines, came a high perfection of the style called Gothic, and with that we are pleased to deal first. It is so full of beauty to the eye and interest to the intellect that sometimes we must be dragged away from it to regard the softer lines of later art, with the ingratitude and reluctance of childhood when torn from its fairy tales to read of real people in the commonplace of every day. We are now in the time when the perfection of production was reached in the tapestries we call Gothic. Artists had grown more certain of their touch in colour and design, and weavers worked with such conscientious care as is now almost unknown, and produced a quality of tapestry superior to that of their forebears. The Fifteenth Century and the first few years of the Sixteenth were spent in perfecting the style of the preceding century, and so great was the perfection reached, that it was impossible to develop further on those lines. It must not be supposed from their importance that Brussels and Bruges were the sole towns of weavers. There were many high-warp looms, and low-warp as well, in many towns in Flanders and France, and there were also beginnings in Spain, England and Germany. Italy came later. The superb set in the Cluny Museum in Paris, The Lady and the Unicorn, than which nothing could be lovelier in poetic feeling as well as in technique, is accorded to French looms. But as it is impossible in a cursory survey to mention all, the two most important cities are dwelt upon because it is from them that the greatest amount of the best product emanated. Tapestries could not well decline with the fortunes of a town, for they were a heavy article of commerce at the time when Louis XI attacked Arras. Trade was made across the Channel, whence came the best wool for their manufacture; they were bought by the French monarchs and nobility; many drifted to Genoa and Italy, to be sold by the active merchants of the times to whoever could buy. When, therefore, Arras was crushed, her able workmen flew to other centres of production, principally in Flanders, notably to Bruges and Brussels, and helped to bring these places into their high position.

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 47 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image VERDURE French Gothic Tapestry See larger image

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