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Antique Tapestries Overview

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In the Middle Ages, tapestries were considered the most lavish form of interior decoration. They were carried between residences by the nobility and set out in churches for special festivals. The spread of the International Gothic style helped to produce the great tapestries that hung on the walls of the vast rooms of princely homes, brightening them up with tales from the courtly literature of the time. The major tapestry workshops were in France (Angers and Paris) and Flanders (Arras, Tournai, and Brussels). In the second half of the 14th century, the Duke of Anjou commissioned the great series of the Apocalypse for Angers Cathedral, designed by the miniaturist Jean Bondol and woven in the workshop of Nicolas Bataille. As well as their iconographic accuracy, these tapestries were important for the strict links of their art with miniature and contemporary painting.

Tapestry is a form of textile art, traditionally woven on a vertical loom. However, it can also be woven on a floor loom as well. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length (called the warp) and those parallel to the width (called the weft); the warp threads are set up under tension on a loom, and the weft thread is passed back and forth across part or all of the warps. Tapestry is weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work, unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible. In tapestry weaving, weft yarns are typically discontinuous; the artisan interlaces each coloured weft back and forth in its own small pattern area. It is a plain weft-faced weave having weft threads of different colours worked over portions of the warp to form the design.