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French over each battle, to the no small admiration of the beholder, and the increase of royal magnificence."
Round the walls of St. Stephen's chapel effigies of the Apostles were painted in oil; (which was thus used with perfectness and skill two centuries before its presumed discovery by John ab Eyck in 1410,) on the western side was a grand composition of the day of Judgment: St. Edward's or the " Painted Chamber," derived the latter name from the quality and profuseness of its embellishments, and the walls of the whole palace were decorated with portraits or ideal representations, and historical subjects. Nor was this the earliest period in which connected passages of history were painted on the wainscot of apartments, for the following order, still extant, refers to the renovation of what must previously—and at some considerable interval of time probably, have been done.
"Anno, 1233, 17 Hen. 3. Mandatum est Vicecomiti South'ton quodCameram regis lambruscatam de castro Winton depingi faciat eisdem historiis quibus fuerat pri'us depicta."
About 1312, Langton, Bishop of Litchfield, commanded the coronation, marriages, wars, and funeral of his patron King Edward I., to be painted in the great hall of his episcopal palace, which he had newly built.
Chaucer frequently refers to this custom of painting the walls with historical or fanciful designs.
"And soth to faine my chambre was
Ful wel depainted
And all the wals with colours fine
And again :—
"But when I woke all was ypast,
Often emblematical devices were painted, which gave the artist opportunity to display his fancy and exercise his wit. Dr. Cullum, in his History of Hawsted, gives an account of an old mansion, having a closet, the panels of which were painted with various sentences, emblems, and mottos. One of these, intended doubtless as a hint to female vanity, is a painter, who having begun to sketch out a female portrait, writes "Die mihi qualis eris"
But comfort, or at least a degree of comfort, had progressed hand in hand with decoration. Tapestry, that is to say needlework tapestry, which, like the Bayeux tapestry of Matilda, had been used solely for the decoration of altars, or the embellishment of other parts of sacred edifices on occasions of festival, or the performance of solemn rites, had been of much more general application amongst the luxurious inhabitants of the South, and was introduced into England as furniture hanging by Eleanor of Castile. In Chaucer's time it was common. Among his pilgrims to Canterbury is a tapestry worker who is mentioned in the Prologue, in common with other <( professors."
"An haberdasher and a carpenter,
"I wol give him all that falles
These modes of decorating the walls and chambers with paintings, and with tapestry, were indeed contemporaneous; though the greater difficulty of obtaining the latter—for as it was not made at Arras until the fourteenth century, all that we here refer to is the painful product of the needle alone—many have made it less usual and common than the former. Pithy sentences, and metrical stanzas were often wrought in tapestry: in Wresil Castle and other mansions, some of the apartments were adorned in the Oriental manner with metrical descriptions called Proverbs. And Warton mentions an ancient suit of tapestry, containing Ariosto's Orlando, and Angelica, where, at every group, the story was all along illustrated with short lines in Provencal or old French.
It could only be from its superior comfort that an article so tedious in manufacture as needlework tapestry could be preferred to the more quickly-produced decorations of the pencil; it was also rude in design; and the following description of some tapestry in an old Manor House in King John's time, though taken from a work of fiction, probably presents a correct picture of the style of most of the pieces exhibited in the mansions of the middle ranks at that period.
"In a corner of the apartment stood a bed, the tapestry of which was enwrought with gaudy colours representing Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Adam was presenting our first mother with a large yellow apple, gathered from a tree that scarcely reached his knee. Beneath the tree was an angel milking, and although the winged milkman sat on a stool, yet his head overtopped both cow and tree, and nearly covered a horse, which seemed standing on the highest branches. To the left of Eve appeared a church; and a dark robed gentleman holding something in his hand which looked like a pincushion, but doubtless was intended for a book: he seemed pointing to the holy edifice, as if reminding them that they were not yet married. On the ground lay the rib, out of which Eve (who stood the head higher than Adam) had been formed; both of them were very respectably clothed in the ancient Saxon costume; even the angel wore breeches, which, being blue, contrasted well with his flaming red wings."
No one who has read the real blunders of artists and existing anachronisms in pictures detailed in "Percy Anecdotes," will think the above sketch at all too highly coloured; though doubtless the tapestry hangings introduced by Queen Eleanor which would be imitated and caricatured in ten thousand different forms, were in much superior style. The Moors had attained to the highest perfection in the decorative arts, and from them did the Spaniards borrow this fashion of hangings,* and "the coldness of our climate (says her accomplished biographer, Miss Agnes Strickland, speaking of Eleanor,) must have made it indispensable to the fair daughter of the South, chilled with the damp stone walls of English Gothic halls and chambers." Of the dullness of these walls we may form some idea, from a feeling description of a residence which was thought sufficient for a queen some centuries later. In the year 1586, Mary, the unhappy Queen of Scots, writes thus:—
* But not from them would be derived the art of painting with the needle the representation of the human figure. Hence, perhaps, the awkward and ungainly aspect of these, in comparison with the arabesque patterns. From a fear of its exciting a tendency to idolatry Mohammed prohibited his followers from delineating the form of men or animals in their pictorial embellishments of whatever sort.
"In regard to my lodging, my residence is a place inclosed with walls, situated on an eminence, and consequently exposed to all the winds and storms of heaven. Within this inclosure there is, like as at Vincennes, a very old hunting seat, built of wood and plaister, with chinks on all sides, with the uprights; the intervals between which are not properly filled up, and the plaister dilapidated in the various places. The house is about six yards distant from the walls, and so low that the terrace on the other side is as high as the house itself, so that neither the sun nor the fresh air can penetrate it at that side. The damp, however, is so great there, that every article of furniture is covered with mouldiness in the space of four days.— In a word, the rooms for the most part are fit rather for a dungeon for the lowest and most abject criminals, than for a residence of a person of my rank, or even of a much inferior condition. I have for my own accommodation only wretched little rooms, and so cold, that were it not for the protection of the curtains and tapestries which I have had put up, I could not endure it by day, and still less by night."*
The tapestries, whether wrought or woven, did not remain on the walls as do the hangings of modern days: it was the primitive office of the grooms of the chamber to hang up the tapestry which in a royal progress was sent forward with the purveyor and
* Von Rauraer's Contributions, 297.