Utility was the main intention behind producing tapestries back in the middle ages. They were 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.
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 (™)