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The History of Tapestries

Utility was the main intention behind producing tapestries back in the middle ages. They Tapestry Loomswere intended to cover the huge stone walls of castles so as to protect the rooms from cold and damp weather. This way, big rooms could be converted into comfortable quarters by insulating the walls. The tapestries required used for this purpose had to be really big. The Tapestry looms had to be big too, which required high capital investments and many workers.

Bruges and Brussels in Flanders were the main places where tapestries were manufactured in 1500. The weaving centers were located in prosperous localities of these regions. The intricacies involved in these tapestries and their sizes made them investments and status symbols of the rich who wished to display power and wealth.

Compact groups or isolated figures stood out against plain backgrounds in the early tapestries. Sometimes, the backgrounds were embellished with floral or plant motifs. These were known as mille fleurs tapestries (tapestries with thousand flowers). Apart from architecture, sculptures and paintings, tapestries were also considered a major form of visual art.

The complexities of Tapestries increased when people started depicting battle scenes through them. There were those that included large groups of figures that were arranged in tiers using architectural constructions.

Tree Of Life Tapestry
In the 16th Century, many patrons wanted to depict their favorite pastimes through tapestries. Therefore, new themes like the hung and peasants at work and play were introduced. A need to display their estates, gave rise to tapestry designs that included pastoral landscapes.

With church monarchs and wealthy kings holding the domain, many of the now-famous manufacturers of tapestries such as the Arras, Beauvais, Aubusson, Gobelins, Bruges, Ghent and Audenarde flourished as tapestries started receiving rich patronage. The subjects were naturally chosen by those who commissioned them.

17th Century saw the first-ever royal factory of tapestries at Les Gobelins, Paris. It employed hundreds of tapestry workers, who worked in groups, taking one painting at a time, weaving their art through colorful and rich scenes.

The designers had a lot to do with the making of truly fine tapestries. There was Francois Boucher, who designed tapestries for Beauvais ever since 1736. His cartons gave rise to about 400 tapestries of Rococo Style, all considered as splendid masterpieces. With the advent of the eighteenth century, these wall coverings were replaced by wallpapers.

Industrial revolution brought about automation in tapestry making with the invention of weaving machines and mechanical tapestry looms. This gave rise to mass production of plain fabrics at much lower cost. However, it still required skilled workers to generate tapestries other than plain ones, which increased the prices of tapestry weaving.

In 1805 jacquard loom was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard. This loom used "punched cards" that commanded each and every thread in the process of weaving. With time these looms evolved in their sophistication, thereby giving rise to newer tapestry designs.

The Belgian Tapestry is perhaps the best example that talks about the greatness of old Flanders in tapestry weaving. Many such treasures can be seen in public buildings and renowned museums all over the world. Mille Fleurs Tapestries still manufactures and distributes these kinds of tapestries.


Happy tapestry shopping!

Thanks & regards
Dr. Hitesh Sharma
Bless International (™)

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