Archive for the ‘Tapestries’ Category

Showing its true colours

December 16, 2014
Reverse side of a tapestry depicting the reception of an embassy, wool and silk, southern Netherlands or northern France, c. 1545, at Powis Castle, inv. no. 1181082.

Reverse side of a tapestry depicting the reception of an embassy, wool and silk, southern Netherlands or northern France, c. 1545, at Powis Castle, inv. no. 1181082.

Following a thorough course of treatment, a sixteenth-century tapestry is almost ready to return to Powis Castle. It shows the reception of a group of European diplomats in Damascus. A detailed analysis of the tapestry by Helen Wyld can be found here, but its subject and history still remain enigmatic.

The image above actually shows the back of the tapestry, with its original warm colours.

The front of the Powis Castle 'Embassy' tapestry. ©National Trust/Rachel Langley

The front of the Powis Castle ‘Embassy’ tapestry. ©National Trust/Rachel Langley

On the front side the exposure to light caused the yellow dye to fade over time, turning the foliage from green to blue – a common feature of these tapestries.

Detail of a head from the 'Embassy' tapestry, after cleaning but before conservation stitching. ©National Trust/Rachel Langley

Detail of a head from the ‘Embassy’ tapestry, after cleaning but before conservation stitching. ©National Trust/Rachel Langley

As part of its treatment the tapestry was sent to the De Wit royal tapestry workshops in Mechelen, Belgium, where it underwent so-called ‘wet cleaning’.

Detail of head from the 'Embassy' tapestry after conservation stitching. ©National Trust/Rachel Langley

Detail of head from the ‘Embassy’ tapestry after conservation stitching. ©National Trust/Rachel Langley

Then it was sent to the National Trust’s Textile Conservation Studio at Blickling Hall for conservation stitching, to remove old crude repairs and improve the overall strength of the tapestry. Soon it will once again be on display at Powis Castle, ready for a new lease of life.

Traces of the Bachelor Duke

October 20, 2010

The Long Gallery at Hardwick ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Hardwick Hall is one of those places that look deceptively unchanged. In a previous post I referred to the building of the house by Bess of Hardwick in the late sixteenth century. In fact, a huge amount of change took place there subsequently, particularly during the time of William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790-1858).

The canopy in the Long Gallery, from a bed made by Francis Lapierre for Chatsworth in 1697. ©NTPL/Nick Guttridge

The ‘Bachelor Duke’, as he was known, inherited the title and the huge Cavendish estates in 1811, at the age of 21. He was spoilt and extravagant, but also lively and loveable, and he greatly enjoyed entertaining, in spite of his increasing deafness.

Early-eighteenth-century bed in the Green Velvet Room. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

The Bachelor Duke combined an abiding interest in the past with a Regency love of splendour. At Hardwick he restored the fabric and the interiors of the house, but he didn’t hesitate to move things around and add furnishings from some of his other properties.

Bed from about 1740 in the Cut Velvet Bedroom. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

He greatly increased the number of paintings hung on the tapestries in the Long Gallery, for instance, effectively making it into an art gallery. He also added the tester and head of a 1697 state bed brought from Chatsworth halfway down the Gallery, in a romantic recreation of the state canopies of Bess of Hardwick’s day.

Cupboard in the style of Jean Goujon set against Flemish tapestries in the Withdrawing Chamber.©NTPL/Nick Guttridge

The early eighteenth-century green velvet bed at Hardwick was brought by the Bachelor Duke from Londesborough Hall in Yorkshire, which the Cavendishes had inherited from the Earl of Burlington in 1753. The cut velvet bed in another room, by Thomas Hardy and dating from about 1740, came from Chatsworth.

Conservation work being done on one of the Gideon tapestries from the Long Gallery at Hardwick, part of a long-term programme of conservation being undertaken at the textile conservation workshop at Blickling Hall. ©NTPL/John Hammond

The Bachelor Duke was also responsible for adding more tapestries to the walls of Hardwick, using it almost like wallpaper. It appealed to his romantic eye, as well as providing some protection against the perishingly cold Derbyshire winters.


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