- A textile in which a colorful
design or scene is formed
by weft threads hand-woven into the warp.
Tapestries have usually been exhibited
as wall hangings. The warp, which is usually linen or wool, is
entirely covered by the weft, which is usually wool, silk, or
metallic strands. Areas
of individual colors are woven as separate blocks, and the gaps
between blocks are later sewn together. Tapestries are either
woven with the warp stretched on a vertical
loom, called high-warp tapestry weaving, or horizontally
on a low-warp loom. A cartoon
or drawing, perhaps by a famous
artist, is copied
by the weaver, who faces the underside of the fabric. Tapestries
were made in ancient Egypt, Greece, China,
and Peru. European tapestry weaving developed between the tenth
and seventeenth centuries. The first important French tapestries
were made in the fourteenth century.
Examples of tapestries:
Iran / Iraq, Persian / Mesopotamian,Umayyad, Woven Tapestry Fragment, 700-799, wool, 12 x 18 3/4 inches (30.5 x 47.6 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See fragment.
China, Mandala, 1279-1368, Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), silk, 33 x 33 inches (83.82 x 83.82 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See Chinese art and mandala.
France/Belgium, South Netherlandish, Hector and Attendants, tapestry fragment from the series "Five Worthies and Attendant Figures", c. 1400-1410, wool warp, wool wefts, 13 feet 9 1/2 inches x 8 feet 8 inches (421 x 264 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
Germany/Switzerland, upper Rhenish (Strasbourg), The Queen of Sheba before King Solomon, 1490-1500, tapestry with linen warp, wool, linen, and metallic wefts, 31 x 40 inches (80 x 101.6 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
France/Belgium, South Netherlandish, The Unicorn Leaps Across a Stream, c. 1495-1505, tapestry with wool warp, wool, silk, silver, gilt wefts, 12 feet 1 inches x 14 feet (368 x 427 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
France, Time, c. 1500-1510, tapestry with wool and silk, Cleveland Museum of Art.
Bernard van Orley (Flemish, c.1488 or 1491/92 - 1542), Otto, Count of Nassau and his Wife Adelheid van Vianen, 1530-35, pen and brown ink, watercolor over traces of black chalk; verso: tracing in black chalk of the figures on the recto, 14 x 19 inches (35.6 x 48.3 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. This is one of eight tapestry designs commissioned by Henry III of Nassau, an advisor to Emperor Charles V, about 1528-30. Unfortunately, the tapestries are lost, probably destroyed in a fire in 1760.
Flanders, Brussels, Siege of a Fortress from the tapestry series "Roman de la Rose" (detail), early 16th century, wool, silk, gold and silver thread, 425 x 407 cm, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. detail
Probably woven by Pieter de Pannemaker (Flemish, flourished 1517-1535), after a painting by Bernart van Orley (Flemish), The Last Supper, c. 14911541/42, wool, silk, silver-gilt thread, 11 x 11 1/2 feet (335 x 350 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
Willem de Pannemaker (Flemish, flourished 1517-1535), The Bridal Chamber of Herse, c. 1550, tapestry with wool, silk, silver, silver-gilt thread 20-22 warps per inch, 8-9 per cm, 14 feet 5 inches x 17 feet 8 inches (439.4 x 538.5 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
William Morris and Co. (England, Surrey, Merton Abbey), The Adoration of the Magi Tapestry, late 19th century, wool, handwoven, 255 x 379 cm, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. In the 1880s William Morris, leader of the English Arts and Crafts Movement, tried to revive tapestry weaving. See English art.
William Morris (English, 1834-1896), Design for Tapestry, drawing on paper, 13.3 x 34.9 cm, Tate Gallery, London.
Contemporary tapestries may be based on the designs of artists or on the weaver's original concept, and some abandon the traditional two-dimensional textile for sculptural forms.