Nautical Tapestries – Ships in Tapestry Art

There is a varied selection of nautical tapestries available from The Tapestry House, woven in France, Belgium or Italy. The imagery and intrigue of ancient maritime life, with great battles, fearless explorers and skilled sailors has influenced many artists throughout history.

Nautical tapestries reflect the inspiration of those times past that appeal to our imagination. This is what, essentially, makes this art so memorable and so collectable. Maritime art allows us to envision the world, not as it is experienced today, but as it was then, and it makes a wonderful decorative addition to our homes.

The reproductions of ships in tapestry art range from Portugese caravelles to harbour scenes, lighthouses and naval battles. 19th century designs range from the Great Wave off Kanagawa, from Japanese woodblocks, to Vincent Van Gogh’s Fishing Boats on a Beach. My own favourite is J.M.W. Turner’s Fighting Temeraire tapestry (below).

Nautical tapestries - The Fighting Temeraire wall-hanging tapestryFrancesco Lazzaro Guardi

This Italian painter is worth extra note because of the number of his scenes reproduced as nautical tapestries. Guardi is among the last professional artists of the famous Venetian School of Painting. He was born in Venice in 1712 and his father was a painter, as were his brothers. The family originated from Tretino, where, in 1643, Ferdinand III had given the Guardi’s a ‘Patent of Nobility’. Nevertheless, Francesco would live his life in virtual poverty, as a highly proficient working artist. During the early years, while working in his brother’s studios, Francesco Guardi produced highly classical artworks. The subject matter was mostly landscape and figurative, primarily for altar pieces and historical depictions. It would be his later work in which he would capture the city of Venice, and specifically the harbour (see top image), for which he would become best known. It is this work, with its maritime aura which is most often produced as tapestry wall-hangings today.

Guardi was commissioned by the government to record Venetian festivities and events. Often he would paint views of the harbour, and it is those works which have become highly favored by tapestry collectors. Guardi’s work is often referred to as ‘Vedute’. Generally, this describes factual paintings of towns or cities. Nevertheless, Guardi’s later work was in the style of ‘Pittura di Tocco’, which translates as ‘Touch Painting’. This was not common in his day, for it was comparatively looser and less controlled than more traditional, classic artistic styles. ‘Piturra di tocco’ describes the way Guardi applied the paint in a combination of small dots and brisk strokes; a style which particularly suits and translates well into wall tapestries.

Guardi’s work was admired by the early French Impressionists, his art reflecting both the Pointillist and Impressionist styles. Therefore, even today, his work and the tapestries produced from them have a relatively modern feel. If nautical tapestries interest you, these would be a most apt addition to your collection. Alternatively, but related, there are numerous world maps reproduced as wall tapestries.

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World maps tapestries

World maps tapestries – interesting tapestry wall decor that intrigues us

We have an inbuilt curiosity in the world around us. This curiosity drove the first man to the ends of the world, a world everyone previously believed to be flat. Later it would send others to the moon. As people learned more of the world around them, they sought a way to record their discoveries and to make future discoveries easier by creating maps. Tapestry maps add a new dimension to these ancient maps. Further, these wall tapestries add charm and beauty to a room and also provide a focal point for interesting conversation.

Conquering uncharted horizons has been an obsession of man since time began. Therefore, it seems only natural that even today, we find tapestry maps so appealing. The Egyptians, Babylonians and the Greeks had a fascination with geography that compelled them to create maps.

Ptolemy’s world map was well known throughout Western society during the second century and was based upon ‘Geographia’ a book he had written around fifty years before. A reproduction of his world map was eventually published in 1482. (The original maps have never been discovered.) His book contained longitude and latitude co-ordinates, references and other important geographical information with regards to the various continents of the ‘Old World’ that was used to reconstruct the original world map. The ‘Geographia’ only describes the European, Asian and African continents.

Many of these world maps tapestries feature mythical creatures and gods, as did the Willem Blaeus Planisfero map - interesting tapestry wall decorancient cartography, adding to their decoration and interest. A classic world tapestry map often features two globes showing both the ancient Eastern and Western worlds. This is seen in the Willem Blaeu Planisfero map (left) available today as an Italian tapestry wall-hanging. Others might reflect the style of one of the most famous world maps ever made, “Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula”, a map created in 1630 by Dutch cartographer Henricus Hondius.  When translated, this means ‘A Complete New Map of the Earth and the Oceans’. It has been reproduced today as a French wall tapestry.

The most popular old map woven as a tapestry is Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio (“A Brief Representation of the World”) seen above. It is admirably woven in Belgium in a rich full weave.

These world maps tapestries make a wonderful focal point for today’s wall decor as collectable works of art – intriguing examples of what can be achieved when both the arts and science combine.

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