Tapestries, what’s in a name indeed? Yes, there are people today who have not an inkling on what tapestries are. It would be fortunate if they don’t think of it as some pastry or some sort of dessert. Some might have been introduced to the word from the films they’ve seen or books they’ve read. But still, their understanding of what the word describes might be different from what the object really is. So let’s stop his hoopla and begin discussing what tapestries are and what they are not.
Tapestries are big wall decorative fixtures. That’s one way of simply explaining it but the definition is an over simplification of what they are, the historic significance and the impact it had to history. Wait a minute, from overly simplifying things, you might think that I’m exaggerating the importance a bit. Actually, not really.
Making a tapestry is an art form. In fact, it is one of the oldest form of textile art. If we’re going to be strict about it, a tapestry can be described as a thick piece of fabric which has intricate designs and images created by weaving various colored threads into fixed warp threads. The closely woven the threads are the more detailed the images they can produce. Now, in those times weaving tapestries is done by hand. And depending on the design and the size of one, it may take months or even years for a group of weavers to complete.
Tapestry making has been around since the classical antiquity. There are tapestries that have been handed down from generations to generations. The practice of owning a tapestry lies on the ancient tradition that the presence of a hand-woven tapestry symbolizes wealth, power, and importance.
But tapestries were hanged on the walls of the homes of the wealthy and powerful also because of another reason: to protect the inhabitants from the cold during the winter months. These are some of the reasons why from the ancient Greeks up until and beyond the Middle Ages, tapestries seem to be a constant fixture in houses especially of residences of nobles and the courts of kings.
The designs began as simple and plain. But later on artists began to explore the medium. As new influence in arts began to surface, the designs with tapestries also began to be more intricate and more complicated. From simple and plain, the designs began to include group images, scenes, etc.
Among the popular images shown in tapestries include stories from the Bible, Greek mythologies, scenes of hunting, and peasants working. Sometimes, those who will commission the manufacturer of these tapestries will request that they, the owner, be included in the artwork disguised to some extent, of course.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, France was at the center of the textile industry and not surprisingly, there were lots of tapestries that came from the area. Fine wool tapestries were the specialties of the area. Unfortunately, during the French revolution, most of the works were destroyed since most of the tapestries at that time contained gold threads.
Later on, Flanders became the center of tapestry production. Today, tapestries are still being produced but the most valuable are the ones during the made from the 16th to the 19th centuries.
So, the next time you encounter the word tapestry, you won’t grope around your dictionary to find the definition. Tapestries, what’s in a name?