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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. 48 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 “ECCE HOMO” Brussels Tapestry, about 1520. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Stories of kings and their magnificence breathe ever of romance, but kings could not be magnificent were it not for the labour of the conscientious common people, those who go daily to their task, asking nothing better than to live their little span in humble endeavour. The weavers, the tapissiers of that far-away time in Flanders are intensely appealing now when their beautiful work hangs before us to-day. They send us a friendly message down through the centuries. It is this makes us inquire a bit into the conditions of their lives, and so we find them scattered through the country north of France working with single-hearted devotion toward the perfection of their art. That they arrived there, we know by such tapestries as are left us of their time. Bruges was the home of a movement in art similar to that occurring in Italy. Old traditions of painting were being thrown aside—the revolution even attacking the painter’s medium, tempera, which was criticised, discarded and replaced by oil on the palettes. Memling, the brothers Van Eyck, were painting things as they saw them, not as rules prescribed. Bernard Van Orley was at work with bold originality. It were strange if this Northern school of painters had not influenced all art near by. It is to these men that Brussels owes the beauty of her tapestries in that apogee of Gothic art which immediately preceded the introduction of the Renaissance from Italy. Cartoons or drawings for tapestries took on the rules of composition of these talented and original men. Easily distinguishable is the strong influence of the religious feeling, the fidelity to standards of the church. When a rich townsman wished to express his praise or gratitude to God, he ordered for the church an altar-piece or dainty gilded Gothic carving to frame the painted panels of careful execution. When Jean de Rome executed a cartoon, he treated it in much the same way; built up an airy Gothic structure and filled the spaces with pretty pictures. The so-called Mazarin tapestry of Mr. Morgan’s shows this treatment at its best. Unhappily, the atelier of Jean de Rome or Jan von Room is too sketchily portrayed in the book of the past; its records are faint and elusive. We only hear now and then an interested allusion, a suggestion that this or that beautiful specimen of work has come from his atelier. Cartoons at the beginning of the Sixteenth Century were not all divided into their different scenes by Gothic column and arch. In much of the fine work there was no division except a natural one, for the picture began to develop the modern scheme of treating but one scene in one picture. Although this might be filled with many groups, yet all formed a harmonious whole. The practice then fell into disuse of repeating the same individual many times in one picture. A good example of the change and improvement in drawing which assisted in making Brussels’ supremacy and in bringing Gothic art to perfection, is the fine hanging in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. (Plate facing page 57.) It depicts with beautiful naïveté and much realism the discomfiture of Pharaoh and his army floundering in the Red Sea, while the serene and elegant children of Israel contemplate their distress with well-bred calm from the flowery banks of an orderly park.

The Tapestry Book, by Helen Churchill Candee. 49 of 196 03/03/2009 19:16 See larger image ALLEGORICAL SUBJECT Flemish Tapestry, about 1500. Collection of Alfred W. Hoyt, Esq. See larger image CROSSING THE RED SEA Brussels Tapestry, about 1500. Boston Museum of Fine Arts This tapestry illustrates so many of the important features of work during the first period of Brussels’ supremacy that it is to be lingered over, dissected and tasted like a dessert of nuts and wine. Should one speak first of the cartoon or of the weave, of the artist or of the craftsmen? If it is to be the tapissier, then to him all credit, for in this and similar work he has reached a care in execution and a talent in translation that are inspired. Such quantity of detail, so many human faces with their varying expressions, could only be woven by the most adroit tapissier.

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