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).
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.