« PreviousContinue »
That there are ancient tapestries existing in England fully equal to those in France is, we think, almost certain; but of course they are not to be summoned from the "vasty deep *' of neglect and oblivion by the powerless voice of an obscure individual. Gladly would we, had it been in our power, have enriched our sketch by references to some of them.
The following notice of a tapestry at Coventry is drawn from " Smith's Selections of the ancient Costume of Britain;" and the names of the tapestries at Hampton Court Palace from 'ePyne's Royal Residences." We have recently visited Hampton Court for the express purpose of viewing the tapestries. There, we believe, they were, entirely (with the exception of a stray inch or two here and there) hung over with paintings.
The splendid though neglected tapestry of St. Mary's Hall at Coventry offers a variety of materials no less interesting on account of the sanctity and misfortunes of the prince (Henry VI.) who is there represented, than curious as specimens of the arts of drawing, dyeing, and embroidery of the time in which it was executed.
It is thirty feet in length and ten in height; and is divided into six compartments, three in the upper tier and three in the lower, containing in all upwards of eighty figures or heads. The centre compartment of the upper row, in its perfect and original state, represented the usual personification of the Trinity—(the Trinity Guild held its meetings in the hall of St. Mary) surrounded by angels bearing the various instruments of the Passion. But the zeal of our early reformers sacrificed this part of the work, and substituted in its stead a tasteless figure of Justice, which now holds the scales amidst the original group of surrounding angels.
The right hand division of this tier is occupied with sundry figures of saints and martyrs, and the opposite side is filled with a group of female saints.
In the centre compartment below is represented the Virgin Mary in the clouds, standing on the crescent, surrounded by the twelve Apostles and many cherubs. But the two remaining portions of this fine tapestry constitute its chief value and importance to the city of Coventry, as they represent the figures of Henry VI., his Queen,the ambitious, and crafty, and cruel, yet beautiful and eloquent and injured Margaret of Anjou, and many of their attendants. During all the misfortunes of Henry, the citizens of Coventry zealously supported him; and their city is styled by historians "Queen Margaret's secret bower." As the tapestry was purposely made for the hall, and probably placed there during the lives of the sovereigns, the figures may be considered as authentic portraits.
The first Presence Chamber in Hampton Court is (or was) hung with rich ancient tapestry, representing a landscape, with the figures of Nymphs, Fawns, Satyrs, Nereides, &c.
There is some fine ancient tapestry in the King's Audience Chamber, the subjects being, on one side, Abraham and Lot dividing their lands; and on the other, God appearing to Abraham purchasing ground for a burying-place.
The tapestry on the walls of the King's DrawingRoom represents Abraham entertaining the three Angels; also Abraham, Isaac, and Rebecca.
The tapestry which covers three sides of the King's State Bedchamber represents the history of Joshua.
The walls of the Queen's Audience Chamber are covered with tapestry hangings, which represent the story of Abraham and Melchisedec, and Abraham and Rebecca.
The Ball Room is called also the Tapestry Gallery, from the superb suite of hangings that ornament its walls, which was brought from Flanders by General Cadogan, and set up by order of George I. The series of seven compartments describes the history of Alexander the Great, from the paintings of the celebrated Charles le Brun. The first represents the story of Alexander and his horse Bucephalus; the second, the visit of Alexander to Diogenes; the third, the passage of Alexander over the Granicus; the fourth, Alexander's visit to the mother and wife of Darius, in their tent, after the battle of Arbela; the fifth, Alexander's triumphal entrance into Babylon; the sixth, Alexander's battle with Porus; the seventh, his second entrance into Babylon.—These magnificent hangings were wrought at the Gobelins.
The tapestry hangings in the king's private bedchamber describe the naval battle of Solebay between the combined fleets of England and France and the Dutch fleet, in 1672.
Of all the tapestries here recorded, the last only, representing the Battle of Solebay, are now visible.
"Flowers, Plants and Fishes, Beasts, Birds, Flyes, and Bees,
Perhaps of all nations in very ancient times the Medes and Babylonians were most celebrated for the draperies of the apartments, about which they were even more anxious than about their attire. All their noted hangings with which their palaces were so gorgeously celebrated were wrought by the needle. And though now everywhere the loom is in request, still these and other eastern nations maintain great practice and unrivalled skill in needle embroidery. Sir John Chardin says of the Persians, "Their tailors certainly excel ours in their sewing. They make carpets, cushions, veils for doors, and other pieces of furniture of felt, in Mosaic work, which represents just what they please. This is done so neatly, that a man might suppose the figures were painted instead of being a kind of inlaid work. Look as close as you will, the joining cannot be seen;" and the Hall of Audience at Jeddo, we are told, is a sumptuous edifice; the roof covered with gold and silver of exquisite workmanship, the throne of massy gold enriched with pearls, diamonds, and other precious stones. The tapestry is of the finest silk, wrought by the most curious hands, and adorned with pearls, gold, and silver, and other costly embellishments.
About the close of the ninth or beginning of the tenth century, the Caliph Moctadi's whole army, both horse and foot, (says Abulfeda) were under arms, which together made a body of 160,000 men. His state officers stood near him in the most splendid apparel, their belts shining with gold and gems. Near them were 7000 black and white eunuchs. The porters or door-keepers were in number 700. Barges and boats, with the most superb decorations, were swimming on the Tigris. Nor was the palace itself less splendid, in which were hung 38,000 pieces of tapestry, 12,500 of which were of silk embroidered with gold. The carpets on the floor were 22,000. A hundred lions were brought out with a keeper to each lion. Among the other spectacles of rare and stupendous luxury, was a tree of gold and silver, which opened itself into eighteen larger branches, upon which, and the other less branches sate birds of every sort, made also of gold and silver. The tree glittered with leaves of the same metals, and while its branches, through machinery, appeared to move of themselves, the several birds upon them warbled their natural notes.
The skill of the eastern embroiderer has always had a wide field for display in the decoration of the