hand-woven fabric of plain weave
made without shuttle or
the design of weft threads being threaded
into the warp with fingers
or a bobbin.
The name has been extended to cover
a variety of heavy
materials, such as
imitation tapestries woven on Jacquard looms,
tapestry carpets, and upholstery
and drapery stuffs. True tapestries
various primitive textiles woven on the
rudest of early
looms, as well as the
famous pictorial hangings of the Middle Ages.
techniques for high- and low-warp
(haute-lisse and basse-lisse)
both were used in the 14th
century In a
high-warp loom the
stretched vertically in front of the weaver,
lisses or loops which raise the
alternate threads to make the shed
lifted by hand; in low-warp work, the warp
horizontal, and the lisses are
moved by means of a foot treadle.
strong warp threads of wool or linen
may vary from 10 to 30 in an
(3 to 12 per cm), but are ordinarily fewer
than 20 (8 per cm).
The soft, full weft
threads of wool, silk, or metal entirely cover
the warp, which remains apparent
in the form of ribs.
true tapestry, the front and back
surfaces are alike, except that
of the design of the same color are
connected by a loose
thread that is
left hanging at the back. The different
colors of the
design, being worked in
separately in blocks or patches, leave
little slits between, which are afterward
sewn up. All are woven
with the back
to the weaver, who sees nothing of his
work until it
is finished, unless he uses a
mirror to reflect it. A cartoon or
on linen or paper, often by a noted artist,
is provided for
the weaver to copy.
Themes for medieval hangings were
ancient legends, mythology,
allegory, history, religion,
specimens of tapestry weaving
include a few surviving from
1500 B.C. and Coptic tapestries
made from the 4th to 8th
The Incas of Peru produced beautiful
specimens, some of which date
back to the pre-Columbian era.
Ancient Chinese tapestries, k'o
were made of light, thin silks, often
interwoven with gold thread.
Allusions in early Greek poetry
and paintings on Greek vases show
that tapestry weaving was an
important household industry.
history of tapestry weaving is
continuous. In the 5th
century A.D. and
in the centuries immediately after,
monasteries and convents were
the centers of the craft. Woolen tapestries
appeared early in
Europe. A few
fragments woven in this material
in the 10th or 11th
century are still preserved.
(The so-called Bayeux
actually embroidered.) At Arras, early in
century, the first great French weaving
was done, in wool. Soon
prominence and remained important
through the 17th
century, until the rise of the
works at Paris.
the 15th century, tapestry weaving had
reached a high degree of
from this century date many great Gothic
with gold thread. A fine specimen
is the set of Burgundian
a late 15th-century example of a verdure
the Lady and the Unicorn set
Cluny). An example of the
Renaissance period is the widely
acclaimed set, the Acts of the
from the cartoons of Raphael. Fine
weaving was done at
century Weavers at
Aubusson, France, began in
the 16th century
to make an inferior textile that was
improved. The baroque style
dominated the 17th
century; the rococo and
classical styles appeared in the 18th century
Fine examples were woven
cartoons of François Boucher, who
worked both for the
and the Gobelins looms.
England much tapestry,
known as Arras, was used before
In the 16th
century William Sheldon set up works
in Warwickshire. An establishment in imitation of the
opened at Mortlake in 1619
and employed Flemish weavers.
William Morris began weaving at
Merton; his friend Edward
designed some of Morris's series.
In 1893 tapestry looms
were set up in
New York City. Some interesting 20th-century
tapestries have been woven in
France fromcartoons by
Lurçat, Picasso, and Calder.
public collections in the
United States that contain fine examples
of tapestry weaving are those in the
Hunt of the Unicorn series at the Cloisters)
the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
M. Jarry, World Tapestry (1969);
A. Pearson, Complete Book of
Tapestry Weaving (1984).