History of tapestry

Tapestry as a genre

General terms for "tapestry" are as follows: "Greek: tapes, Latin: tapetum, French: tapisserie (with the exception of those made in the Gobelin workshop, which are called gobelins), German: Wandteppich"- MGY, and Hungarian: kárpit. The Italians and Spaniards call tapestries made in Arras (Flanders) arrazi.
In Hungarian language usage we encounter the expression "carpoltos: kárpit" in the Besztercei Szójegyzék (Beszterce Word List) from c. 1395. This meant ornamental handwoven fabric, which for centuries had been used to cover walls and openings in walls.-LE
"The woven wall tapestry created in our century is different only in its function. Its technology is exactly the same as that of the wall tapestry."Pj The tapestry was always an independent genre which could be appraised as an art work meeting aesthetic requirements, too. It reflected the mentality of eras and periods, making statements, in wool, in accordance with the rules of the weaving technique. It was a remarkable moment of the XXth century history of tapestry art, when the process of the planning and realization became unified. This was the way, how Noemi Ferenczy unified phases of the design, creating the cartoon, selection of threads, colours and the quality of the wools, and the technical realization.This creative habitus became general among the Hungarian artists. "On the one hand it is more laconic and more abstract than painting, but on the other it is entirely concrete from the point of view of material. It is made from natural materials, more slowly than with any procedure used in the fine arts. In the mystery of its technique everything is lost that is contingent, garrulous and superficial".MK "It had its designers, famous painters and graphic artists in particular periods, but a tapestry itself is not the creation of a single artist, rather the product of the joint work of designer, design-drawer and weaver. Even in the initial period of tapestry weaving, certain weaving centres, workshops and masters were much in demand and enjoyed great respect. From the 16th century onwards tapestries were supplied with so-called master's marks.

Tapestry

It had its designers, famous painters and graphic artists in particular periods, but a tapestry itself is not the creation of a single artist, rather the product of the joint work of designer, design-drawer and weaver. Even in the initial period of tapestry weaving, certain weaving centres, workshops and masters were much in demand and enjoyed great respect. From the 16th century onwards tapestries were supplied with so-called master's marks, After the design the cartoon is made, on paper appropriate to the tapestry's size, or by painting the design onto canvas. In addition a workshop drawing is made for the weaving. Its material is transparent paper, more recently film, on which the artist drew in, using Indian ink, the forms and the outlines of the patches of colour. How precisely the design is transposed to the workshop sketch, on the basis of which the master-weaver weaves the work, depends on the work of the artist making the workshop  sketch. Before the weaving begins it is decided how dense the warp of the tapestry should be. The yarns and the warp were  may be stretched vertically on a standing loom (hautte lice), - or horizontally on a lying  loom (basse lice). This was indicated on the tapestries. Since the XVI. Century there had been silk, metal fibre fleece applied  with coloured warp until our contemporary  era of tapestry art. In the early  period of XI-XII. Century – the tapestry weaving technique included mosaic patterns due to a greater or lesser juxtaposed woven patches. Only the large workshops of the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries  (first in Paris, Arras, Tournai workshop) began to introduce different colours to each other,(hachure  method) Structural principles and elements of the tapestry weaving remained almost unchanged from the earliest times until today.

Hautte lice

On the traditional French upright loom the weaver performed the keeping apart of the warp threads above her head by means of a manually-worked heald or heddles. Every even warp thread was held by one of these and every odd thread by another. Between warp threads held open in this way coloured weft threads were led across. From engravings published in Diderot's Encyclopaedia (1751- 1772) we have an exact picture of a French workshop of the time. After the elimination of this succession of uncomfortable movements, the tredle-operated upright loom took root in Hungary, created by György Korody. In French workshops they adhere to the traditional loom even today. Tapestries woven on an upright loom can be checked as the weaving work continues. The width of a loom could be as much as several metres in many cases. Individual weaving workshops usually favour a particular type of loom.

Basse lice

On horizontal looms they work using a tredle. The cartoons are drawn on the basis of a mirror-image of the picture that is to be woven, which is woven with great exactness. The work can be viewed only in its completed state. In the information given on tapestries the type of loom used is generally indicated.

Maker’s mark

In Brussels the marking of tapestries with city and workshop marks was made compulsory in 1528. These marks were "the initial letters of the name of the weaving centre, workshop and master, or marks of smaller size". For instance: City of Brussels, Brussels Workshop, Mechlen, Oudenaarde, Paris, Tournai, or the new Brussels workshop mark from the the 17th century. Generally speaking, the city mark was woven into the outer edge of the lower horizontal border, ... that of the workshop into the outermost edge of the border on the right hand side. The practice of marking tapestries was later adopted by other Flemish and French workshops as well.

Threads

How precisely the design is transposed to the workshop sketch, on the basis of which the master-weaver weaves the work, depends on the work of the artist making the workshop  sketch. Before the weaving begins it is decided how dense the warp of the tapestry should be. Density is measured by the number of the threads per centimetres. In the Middle Ages the density of the warp was 4 or 5 weft threads per centimeter, while in the 16th century, a time when finely shaded works were executed, as many as 12 weft threads were used per centimetre. The density determines the amount of thread necessary for the warp. The colored weft yarns are completely covered by the warp as they are densely stacked in one another by the fork. The pattern  is created by the  colored weft threads, which following the plan drawn by the artist, are loaded  and stacked line by line.

Gobelin

In Europe textiles to cover walls were first produced in Netherlandish and French workshops during the Middle Ages and became world famous, but only the woven tapestries produced in France's Gobelin Workshop are called gobelins. They are not to be confused with a type of embroidery popular in the more developed world at the beginning of the century which is sewn, on the basis of a picture painted on lightly woven fabric (congré) with stiches of uniform direction, and called petit point, which, in the absence of an equivalent in Hungarian, is also known as gobelin.

Gobelin work shops

In 1440 in France Jean and Pilibert Gobelin, brothers who dyed cloth, founded a workshop. Later this was operated as a weaving workshop by Flemish dyers, under the name Les Gobelins. Between 1607 and 1630 the workshop produced numerous tapestries under the direction of François de la Planche - originally van der Planken -  (Tancred Baptising the Amazon Clorinda, Whom He Has Mortally Wounded) and Marc de Comans. It was at this time that use of black and white began.
Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619-83), finance minister to Louis XIV, had the Gobelin workshop turned into a royal manufactory (under the name Manufacture Royale des Meubles de la Couronne) in 1667. The minister was a great patron of the arts and sciences, and founded many institutions. It was he who transformed the Savonnaire (originally a soap works) into a weaving workshop in 1626. Later on wall tapestries for the Palace of Versailles were made in this workshop.
According to some claims, Colbert founded these workshops to prevent the outflow of French gold, thereby keeping in France the large sums of money earlier paid out to Flemish master weavers. Subsequently Colbert entrusted the management of the Gobelin workshop to Charles Le Brun (1619-90). Between 1662 and 1690 a total of 894 ’gobelins’ emerged from the Gobelin workshop. Depictions, in accordance with the display needs of the Baroque Court, were largely mythological and historical in theme. Van der Meulen and Le Brun made the Story of the King series, which consisted of sixteen works. It depicts scenes from the life of Louis XIV on the basis of designs by Mathieu. These tapestries were made for the Palace of Versailles between 1673 and 1681."-MGY These were historical (Alexander the Great)  (The Battle of Granicus) and allegorical (Fame, The Elements, The Seasons). Otherwise, in addition to wall tapestries, the weaving and use of lighter coloured door tapestries and curtains spread and became general in the age of the Sun King Louis XIV (1638-1715).  Tapestries from the Gobelin workshop drew the admiration of the age and of posterity through the beauty of their compositions and the meticulous execution of the weaving. After Le Brun's death there was no worthy successor to the master, with the result that the workshop was closed down. It reopened only in 1699. Between 1662 and 1690 894 tapestries ("gobelins")  were made in the Gobelin workshop, and they created many later.

Decorative tapestry

Rugs, which in the West satisfied luxury needs, were in the East made for everyday use in nomadic society. Rugs covered the floors and the walls of tents which served as the homes for the both the common people and the dignitaries, valuables were kept and transported in bags made from rugs, animals were covered with rugs, and families ate, prayed and rested on them. Newborn children were wrapped in them, and the dead were laid out on them."
"The fashion for tents did not end when people settled down in fixed places and built stone dwellings.

In the written Hungarian sources from the time of Árpád kings, the term carpet or tapestry occurs on a number of occasions. It is sometimes conceivable that the references are actually to woven tapestries, but usually this expression refers to patterned silk tapestries, embroidered tapestries, dyed tapestries, tapestries adorned with appliqued work, or even leather tapestries.
Carpets and upholstery often feature later on also in the written documents, in dowry lists, in wills, in account books, and - all of a sudden - in inventories.

According to the Kolozsvár data (30), the cheapest were the trimmings and fur tapestries; these were made from wool and were perhaps similar to thick woolen bedcovers. Among the woolen wall tapestries, we come across those with the designations Saxon and Szekler. These were made here in Hungary. From the East were imported kilims ... woven from wool, and the Turkish tapestries which appear in the inventories of the princes of Transylvania. This last type was very costly, being a silk tapestry embellished with embroidery and woven with gold thread. Of the tapestries originating in the West, the most common was the canvas tapestry, a dyed copy of the expensive Western pictorial tapestry. Initially most were made in Vienna; later on we encounter Hungarian tapestry designers, too.

Patterned silk and velvet brocades, Italian tapestries, were also expensive... The expression Viennese tapestries, which were green in colour, was still current. The adjectives pictorial, Flemishí and chase referred to woven tapestries. Mention was also made of Polish tapestries. Large numbers of escutcheoned carpets were made in the East for the European market for example, valuable Polish carpets, which among others we know about through a letter of order sent by King Sigismund III in 1601.

It’s past history is as old as human culture

The history of woven textiles stretches back to the earliest period in human history, to the Neolithic Age, when clay weights to hold threads taut were already known. In many pictures from Antiquity and on many archaeological finds we encounter depictions of yarn making, sketches and reliefs showing rudimentary forms of weaving, and depictions presenting the use of woven textiles.
The oldest relic is a scrap of woollen cloth from 7000 B.C."p "The oldest figural depictions referring to the beginnings of weaving are from the 5th to the 4th millennium B.C. The oldest known cotton textile in the world was found at Mohendjodaro in the Indus valley, in what is now Pakistan. It was uncovered along with a number of other archaeological finds, including artefacts used in spinning and weaving (e.g., spindles, reels for thread, etc.), from 4500 B.C.
The earliest scraps of flaxen material are from the time of the Old Empire in Egypt, and date from the period 5500-5000 B.C. The production of flax there was so important that in the Book of Exodus account of the Plague of Hail it is specifically said that the "flax and barley were destroyed". "In the list of the most important products on a stele of Hamurapi, king of Babylon, from 2000 B.C. wool occupies fourth place, after oil, precious stones and wheat. Indicative of its value and quality is the fact that in Rome woollen cloth was called babilonka, and Nero purchased a single woollen blanket for 4 million sesterces.
In Egdtvedt, Denmark, fragments of textile woven from wool from 2700 B.C. were discovered. In China, stuck to a bronze jug from 3300 B.C., in the Sang Yin period, the first traces of silk were found." "On the basis of cotton remains in Peru dating from 1200 B.C. researchers have established that 190 different hues were employed in cotton weaving there. In Dorak, in Turkey, were found fragments of a fine, kilim-woven cotton carpet dating from 2500 B.C., which was originally used to cover the floor of a house at that time. On the fragment, rhombus-shaped, geometrical motifs can be seen. In the 2nd millennium B.C.

In the tomb of the pharaoh Thotmes IV (ruled 1412-1402 B.C.) fragments of finely woven tapestry were found. On the largest tapestry fragment were woven the names of the pharaohs Amenhotep II (ruled 1438-1412 B.C. and Thotmes III (ruled 1503-1449 B.C.), on a base textile bestrewn with papyrus lotus flowers depicting the symbols of Lower and Upper Egypt.
Another very old kilim-woven relic of Egyptian textile art was found in the tomb of Tutankhamen (ruled 1347-1339 B.C.). This contained the most characteristic Egyptian decorative elements (the Sun depicted with wings, the hieroglyphic symbol for the pharaoh). "In Sanskrit literature from the 1st millennium B.C., in the Rig-véda (the oldest Indo-Aryan linguistic survival, from the 11th-10th century B.C.) can be read a description of sheep's wool textiles from Punjab, as well as descriptions of cotton and silk textiles. The epic poem Mahabharata, written down in the second half of the 1st millennium B.C., also mentions cotton, silk and woollen textiles, which were woven by nomadic tribes living in the northwestern regions of the Himalayas. "On the basis of ancient records, the carpets of King Solomon (1029-986 B.C.) could be among the earliest textiles woven using the kilim technique. King Solomon married one of the pharaoh's daughters, who brought him the city of Gozer as a dowry, and probably many costly things."-LK-SZ Reference to this occurs as follows: "I have covered my bed with coloured linens from Egypt" (Proverbs 7:16). "Mention is also made of the purple tapestry woven from bissus (snail silk) which hung in the Temple at Jerusalem. In the central part of the former Phrygia, in the western part of the Anatolian plain, fine textiles woven using the kilim, sumak and zili techniques have been found which date from the 7th century B.C.
Athenaeus (6th century B.C.), in his work on Sardes, the one-time capital of Lydia, tells of the costly tapestries made there (Sardes was mentioned by the Greeks as the place from where the very best tapestries came).

In accordance with ancient religious practice, a dead person was buried with his favourite possessions and most prized treasures. It was because of this that favourite carpets found their way into the Pazyrik and Basadar kurgans, to rest next to the prince's sarcophagus."- For the present author the incredible similarity of some finds, e.g. felt ornamentation, to Hungarian folk ornamentation is quite  astonishing.
Of the fragments of textile the most valuable is considered to be the so-called Pazyrik tapestry, which was made using the knotted technique. With regard to the valuable carpet Professor Rugyenko (like many other scholars) claims that it probably came from Persia.

The first written documents to give accounts of woven carpets and tapestries are to be found in the Old Testament, in the Book of Esther. Esther was the wife of the Persian king Xerxes (485-465 B.C.). In the enclosed garden of his royal palace at Susa there were "...hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars".
In the reliefs on surviving enamelled bricks from the palace at Susa can be seen figures of lions marching in line similar to the motif on the strip of kilim found at Pazyrik. Xenophon (434-355 B.C.), in his works Anabasis and Cyropedia, writes about the way of life of Middle Eastern peoples, making mention of the artistic tapestries produced by these peoples. In Kercs, on the northern shores of the Black Sea, were found woollen tapestry fragments woven from very finely shaded threads dating from the 3rd century B.C. The overall effect of this textile resembles that of a relief. On the steppes of Mongolia - near Noin-ula in the Urga region - were found tombs dating from the 1st century B.C. which yielded numerous carpets, blankets and curtains woven from wool. These textiles were embellished with stylized motifs of turtles, fish and aquatic plants.
We can learn about the woven fabrics and carpets of Ancient Greece from descriptions written at the time. In the homes of the Greeks there were furniture covers, curtains and wall tapestries. These textiles were woven from purple, scarlet, lilac, saffron, yellow, brown, sea green and green threads. In his work on Agamemnon Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.) writes about a wonderfully beautiful purple carpet, which was spread before the feet of the warrior when he returned home victorious from a battle, but which he did not dare to step upon, saying that this should be the right and privilege of the gods only. Athenaeus wrote in 280 B.C. of two purple Egyptian kilims, the patterns of which were the same on the right and reverse sides.
In the 3rd to 4th century many woven carpets, wall tapestries and curtains were made. A mosaic in the famous Church of San Vitale in Ravenna depicts the Empress Theodora (508-548) and her retinue at the moment at which they enter the door of a room embellished with woven curtains and tapestries. The mosaic was made in the 6th century. The mosaic in Ravenna's New Church of San Apollinare dates from the same time, and shows the Emperor Theodoric (the Great) and his palace, where coloured hangings and tapestries are hung between the pillars. In this period hangings and tapestries woven from wool were hung as embellishments between the pillars in the naves of churches. From the 6th century onwards, when the Emperor Justinian (482-565) permitted the breeding of silkworms, as well as woollen thread costly and decorative silk thread was also used in the weaving of these. Later on, however, tapestries were embellished with threads made using precious metals (gold, silver). To begin with, these metallic threads were made of animal gut thinly coated with precious metal, or were strips of the metal itself, around a thin silk core (thread).
Later still, from the 15th century onwards, the switchover was made to the use of Italian silver-gilt or copper thread a hairës breadth in thickness.