Information about wall tapestries

Background information about wall tapestries for sale by The Tapestry House – a summary about the weaving of fine European tapestry wall-hangings.

All of our tapestries and wall hangings are Jacquard woven using modern looms based on the original Jacquard looms from the early 19th century. The tapestries are not screen printed – they are individually woven using centuries-old techniques on modern looms. Some of our pieces are licensed from the originals in private collections and museums, not poor quality imitations.

Although modern methods of manufacture speed up the process our wall tapestries still retain the individuality found in all tapestry art. Each piece is individually woven so each tapestry is unique. The techniques used to make our tapestries for sale are the same as craftsmen have used for centuries. Modern equipment has helped speed up the process but the end result is still a unique work of art. They are woven in mills across Europe – from Belgium, France and Italy; many being reproductions of old masters and famous works of art. We do not sell the inferior tapestries woven in China, USA, Egypt or India – no knock-offs or sweatshops!

The designs are machine woven using a combination of yarns usually including cotton, wool and/or viscose. Historically wall hangings were made using natural fibres, generally wool, however today’s combination of yarns adds texture, depth and fine detail to the tapestries whilst retaining their historical look. For example, a tapestry woven in wool and cotton benefits from the fullness provided by the wool and the fine detailing of the cotton. Each weaver has several different qualities of weaves with the simplest way to discern this being directly related to the price.

The unfinished tapestry off-the-loom is then imported to our workroom in Canada where it is individually hand-finished. Finishing involves adding a poly/cotton backing as a lining, with a rod pocket for easy hanging of the tapestry. At the end of this process each piece is individually checked for quality before being prepared for shipping. We enclose instructions to assist you with the easy hanging and care of your tapestry.

Portiere wall-hangings

You may wonder “What is a portière?”. Portiere wall-hangings are defined by Wikipedia as: “A portière is a hanging curtain placed over a door or over the doorless entrance to a room.”

We need to expand on this regarding their use in centuries past and today. Walking through a French chateau or elegant Paris mansion you would see portières hanging on either side of doorways, adding to their grandeur. Several of these portières are available today, all being tall slim French tapestries.

Since the visual characteristic of these is that they are both tall and slim they can be woven tapestries in other styles, not necessarily suitable for an elegant chateau. They may be suitable for a humble home (yours?).

Elegant French portiere wall-hanging Unicorn tapestry - medieval portiere wall hanging Gustav Klimt tall slim tapestry - Silhouette wallhanging William Morris portiere tapestry - portiere wall-hanging

Today portiere wall-hangings are much more adaptable for our homes simply because of the variety of styles. Yes, there are elegant designs but consider these too: medieval tapestries, verdures (ie forested scenes), numerous botanical hangings, even Art Nouveau portières. Several are available as pairs of hanging tapestries; visually a pair is far more than doubly effective than a single tapestry. These pairs might flank a door in the traditional manner but are excellent ways to decorate a large wall (see top image).

My own favourites are the William Morris portieres in their Arts & Crafts splendour. Furthermore, they are unusually varied in sizes and colour tones. Seen on the right above, this one is the medium of three sizes. It is the green and yellow version; you can also order a maroon and brown alternative, also in three sizes.

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Alphonse Mucha tapestries

The art of Alphonse Mucha typifies Art Nouveau for many of us, so it’s been pleasing to see an increasing interest in Alphonse Mucha tapestries; hence this article about the man and his work.

One of the privileges of having your own blog is that you can write about matters of personal interest with a greater passion hoping that others will catch this and appreciate it.  I’ve always respected art movements which are a way of life, such as the Arts and Crafts Movement. The breadth of Art Nouveau incorporated so much in daily life; for example, Charles Rennie Macintosh’s designs for new homes in Scotland included everything from the architecture to the cutlery. In Czechoslavakia Alphonse Mucha was part of a cultural movement although it is his designs and illustrations that remain prominent today.

Alphonse Mucha

Alfons Maria Mucha was born in 1860 and studied art first at Vienna and Munich before moving to Paris in 1887. (Where would late 19th century and early 20th century art be without the influence of Paris?)

The story is well known how he went into a print shop in late 1894 and discovered that a poster was needed in a hurry for a Sarah Bernhardt play. On 1st January 1895 his lithographed poster appeared and the rest, as they say, is history. Bernhardt employed Mucha for the next six years and Mucha broadened his output into advertisements, book illustrations and paintings. Often forgotten is that his work extended beyond the commercial world to designing theatre sets, wallpaper, carpets and jewellery. Alphonse Mucha’s flowing style in swirling soft pastel colours was a departure from the past, later much imitated.

Alphonse Mucha tapestries

Today we can enjoy some of his decorative art in the Alphonse Mucha tapestries Alphonse Mucha Evening tapestrywoven in France or Belgium. Most are in series of four designs depicting the seasons or the times of the day and most are woven in several size options.

I love the colours and the flow of the main design into the borders of his Times of the Day series. They were colour lithographs of 1899 which are superbly woven today by Belgian weavers in a thick yet tight weave of 79% cotton: see Evening Reverie on the right. My wife and I had two of these hanging in our master bathroom: see below. (Incidentally, people sometimes wonder if humidity means that tapestries should not be hung in bathrooms, but we did not notice any ill-effects.)

Three years previously Alphonse Mucha produced a series celebrating the seasons. These are now available as wall tapestries from two weavers each having quite different colourings, so you can select according to your decor. You will notice a difference in price points; just remember that this is the best indicator of quality.

Mucha tapestries in a bathroom

We’d love to see a photograph if you have any Art Nouveau tapestry designs in your home. Share the pleasure!

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Monet tapestries

Monet tapestries, ie tapestry reproductions of his wonderful paintings, are understandably popular today.

One of our supplying tapestry weavers has just released two more tapestries from his wonderful art and a further one from a modern painting of Monet’s lake at Giverny in Normandy. It is not difficult to see why Claude Monets art is ideal as tapestry wall-hangings.

Monet tapestries

·    The soft brush strokes of Monet’s Impressionist art lends itself so well to the gentle appearance produced by tapestry weaving.
·    Framed prints have a hard look whereas the softness of a wall tapestry suits the Impressionist style well.
·    Many homes have a Monet framed print but not many a tapestry. Now there are many of his paintings available as Monet tapestries including Giverny scenes
·    Impressionist art is perhaps the most popular period for home décor today.
·    And they are so beautiful!

Irises in Monet's Garden tapestry - Claude Monet tapestriesAbove is one of these new tapestries, Irises in Monet’s Garden, woven in Belgium featuring his gardens at Giverny, from a 1900 oil painting. Monet’s art has inspired so many so it is not surprising that we have tapestries by modern artists of his lake where he spent productive years. These include the Monet’s Garden series (see top image) and now a new Belgian tapestry (below) from a painting by Bob Pejman who is responsible for many of our Mediterranean tapestries.

Giverny Pond tapestry - Monet's lake

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Elegant French tapestries

I’m in the mood to write about elegant French tapestries. I’ve often read that bloggers struggle with “what shall I write about?” but this really is no problem for us here – we have so many tapestries, each with a tale to tell.

Our Belgian, Italian and French tapestries are naturally very broad-ranging in their styles yet certain fundamental styles play a dominant role. A visit to France quickly reveals the influence of French elegance in tapestry art derived from the 17th and 18th centuries. The chateaux and museums shout out Louis XIV in particular. He commissioned them by the hundred for his royal palaces. I remember being stunned by a long hallway at the chateau at Blois whose walls were filled by wall tapestries showing his palaces. One of these, the Royal Palace tapestry (above), is very popular today.

Louis XIV was even followed into battle by an artist whose job was to depict the king directing his troops. These later became glorious paintings or tapestries … if the king was victorious. See the Capture of Lille:

Louis XIV tapestries - Capture of Lille wall tapestryHis successor Louis XV may have been less flamboyant but his patronage of Francois Boucher (1703-70) resulted in a distinctive influential style of elegant French tapestries. In spite of the republican vandalism of the French Revolution tapestries continued as status symbols to future emperors and kings. By then the more efficient Jacquard loom had been invented. This loom provides the basis of all tapestry weaving today. The tapestry below shows that French elegance remained in the 19th century when this was woven in Beauvais. The image shows The Mandolin tapestry in our home above an antique seven legged table (yes, seven legs).

French elegant tapestryOne has to conclude that the French will always have an elegant flair, certainly in Paris. I, for one, am glad of that.

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William Morris Tapestry Art

William Morris was an English designer, poet, artist and craftsman whose designs for textiles, stained glass, furniture, wallpaper and many other decorative arts helped create the Arts and Crafts Movement during the Victorian era. The talents of Morris knew no bounds. He had an innate curiosity and an appreciation of all things beautiful and he tried his hands at almost everything in the applied arts.

Morris was born in March 1834 in Walthamstow, Essex and had a comfortable childhood before attending Marlborough and Exeter College, Oxford. Whilst studying for Holy Orders at Oxford in 1853 he met Edward Burne-Jones who would later become his business partner and lifelong friend. He abandoned his studies after reading the social criticisms of Carlyle, Kingsley and Ruskin and decided instead to become an architect. The young novice became an apprentice to G.E. Street, an architect involved in the Gothic revival. But impulsively creative he soon tired of this and began, like his friend Burne-Jones, to paint. Finding art his forte he embraced it fully, writing poetry, printing, learning how to weave and dye and work a loom. It was the latter pursuit that would come to demonstrate William Morris tapestry art at its most impressive. His beautiful tapestries became among his most famous creations.

In 1879, Morris set up a loom in his house (in his bedroom!) and taught himself to weave with only an old French crafts manual for guidance. William Morris tapestry art was born! Within a matter of months he had completed his first tapestry design, Acanthus and Vine. He founded Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company along with friends Peter Paul Marshall and Charles Faulkner. Together with Edward Burne-Jones and fellow artists Ford Maddox Brown and Dante Gabriel Rosetti the group produced some of the most creative paintings and tapestries Britain had seen.

One of William Morris’s most enduring legacies was his revitalization of tapestry weaving. By the mid-19th century tapestries had become just another mass-produced item, generally from Les Gobelins factory in Paris of which Morris was scathing. Driven by the need to demonstrate the importance of the individual over the means of production Morris used tapestry and textile design to revitalize the central importance of creativity in art. It was his ambition to breathe new life into the art and he achieved it: his tapestries still remain an important influence on design today. His most famous works generally featured figures drawn by Burne-Jones. Morris would design the background and the tapestry would be woven by Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, which became simply Morris & Co in 1874 when Morris took sole control.

The Quest for the Holy Grail, currently exhibited at the Birmingham Museum, is one of the best known works of Morris & Co. Like many of the others, the tapestry, which depicts the fascinating story of the search for the Holy Grail, was designed by Edward Burne-Jones. Six wall hangings illustrate the story, woven in 1895-96.

A further example, one of the most intricate and beautiful creations from the company is the Tree of Life tapestry. Designed by Morris it demonstrates his talent with patterns and his awareness and appreciation of the use of colour. Symbolising growth and continuous life, the Tree of Life wall tapestry is still one Morris’s most recognisable works; one of the most popular French tapestries available today.

William Morris Tree of Life tapestryThe works of Morris are proof that real beauty can be timeless. As popular today as they were over a century ago, William Morris tapestry art, has continued to inspire new generations of artists and craftsmen to reach beyond convention and to genuinely create.

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