Tapestry is a form of textile art. It is woven by hand on a vertical loom. It is weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work, unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible. In this way, a colourful pattern or image is created. Most weavers use a naturally based warp thread such as linen or cotton. The weft threads are usually wool or cotton, but may include silk, gold, silver, or other alternatives.

Both craftsmen and artists have produced tapestries. The 'blueprints' on cardboard (also known as 'tapestry cartoons') were made by artists of repute, while the tapestries themselves were produced by craftsmen.


The success of decorative tapestry can be partially explained by its portability. Kings and noblemen could roll up and transport tapestries from one residence to another. In churches, they could be displayed on special occasions. Tapestries were also draped on the walls of castles for insulation during winter, as well as for decorative display.

In the Middle Ages and renaissance, a rich tapestry panel woven with symbolic emblems, mottoes, or coats of arms called a baldachin, canopy of state or cloth of state was hung behind and over a throne as a symbol of authority.Campbell, "Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty", p. 339-341] The seat under such a canopy of state would normally be raised on a dais.

The iconography of most Western tapestries goes back to written sources, the Bible and Ovid's "Metamorphoses" being two popular choices. Apart from the religious and mythological images, hunting scenes are the subject of many tapestries produced for indoor decoration.

Historical development

Tapestries have been used since at least Hellenistic times. Samples of Greek tapestry have been found preserved in the desert of Tarim Basin dating from the 3rd century BC.

Tapestry reached a new stage in Europe in the early fourteenth century AD. The first wave of production originated in Germany and Switzerland. Over time, the craft expanded to France and the Netherlands.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, Arras, France was a thriving textile town. The industry specialised in fine wool tapestries which were sold to decorate palaces and castles all over Europe. Few of these tapestries survived the French Revolution as hundreds were burnt to recover the gold thread that was often woven into them. "Arras" is still used to refer to a rich tapestry no matter where it was woven.

By the 16th century, Flanders had become the centre of European tapestry production. In the 17th century Flemish tapestries were arguably the most important productions, with many specimens of this era still extant, demonstrating the intricate detail of pattern and colour.

In the 19th century, William Morris resurrected the art of tapestry-making in the medieval style at Merton Abbey. Morris and Company made successful series of tapestries for home and ecclesiatical uses, with figures based on cartoons by Edward Burne-Jones.

Tapestries are still made at the factory of Gobelins and a few other old European workshops, which also repair and restore old tapestries. The craft is also currently practiced by hobbyist weavers.

The term Tapestry is also used to describe fabric made on jacquard looms. Tapestry upholstery fabrics and reproductions of the famous tapestries of the Middle Ages are a common products of jacquard looms. Kilims and Navajo Rugs are also types of tapestry work.

Famous tapestries

*The Sampul tapestry, woollen wall hanging, 3rd-2nd century BC, Sampul, Urumqi Xinjiang Museum.
*The Hestia Tapestry, 6th century, Egypt, Dumbarton Oaks Collection.
*The Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the events surrounding the Battle of Hastings; note that this is not (strictly speaking) a tapestry, but is instead embroidery. In June 2007, the tapestry was listed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.
*The Apocalypse Tapestry is the longest tapestry in the world, and depicts scenes from the Book of Revelation. It was woven between 1373 and 1382. Originally 140m (459ft), the surviving 100m are displayed in the Château d'Angers, in Angers, France.
*The six-part piece "La Dame à la Licorne" (The Lady and the Unicorn), stored in l'Hôtel de Cluny, Paris.
*The Hunt of the Unicorn is a seven piece tapestry from 1495 to 1505, currently displayed at the The Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
*The tapestries for the Sistine Chapel, designed by Raphael in 1515-16, for which the Raphael Cartoons, or painted designs, also survive.
*The Valois Tapestries are a cycle of 8 hangings depicting royal festivities in France in the 1560s and 1570s
*The New World Tapestry is a 267 feet long tapestry which depicts the colonisation of the Americas between 1583 and 1648, currently displayed at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol; note that this is not (strictly speaking) a tapestry, but is instead embroidery.
* The biggest collection of Flanders tapestry is in the Spanish royal collection, there is 8000 meters of historical tapestry from Flanders, as well as Spanish tapestries designed by Goya and others. There is a special museum in the palace of La Granja, and others are displayed in various historic buildings.


"True" tapestry

Other forms of needlework called "tapestry"



*Campbell, Thomas P. "Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty: Tapestries at the Tudor Court", Yale University Press, 2007, ISBN 9780300122343
*Russell, Carol K. "Tapestry Handbook. The Next Generation", Schiffer Publ. Ltd.,Atglen,PA. 2007, ISBN 978-0-7643-2756-8

External links

* [http://www.wawel.krakow.pl/en/index.php?op=22,33 Jagiellonian Tapestries]
* [http://www.all-art.org/history194-28.html Tapestry] , "A World History of Art"
* [http://www.designerwalltapestries.com/Tapestry_Info_s/17.htm Tapestry Design and Weaving Info]
*" [http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/20386 Embroidery and Tapestry Weaving] ", by Grace Christie, 1912, from Project Gutenberg. Technical handbook.

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