Sunday, 9 December 2012

A Morris & Co Tapestry

In 1890 William Knox D'Arcy commissioned Morris & Co to make him a set of six tapestries depicting scenes from the legend of King Arthur and the quest for the Holy Grail. The tapestries were to line the walls of his dining room at Stanmore Hall just outside London. Additional versions of the tapestries with minor variations were woven on commission by Morris & Co. over the next decade, and several of the tapestries can be viewed in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
The above tapestry is our own, it shows the central section of one of the scenes depicting The Attainment or The Achievement of the Holy Grail - the angels in our tapestry befit this Christmas season, so for a bit of fun I have made a mosaic from it.
The Failure of Sir Gawaine
The arming and departure of the Knights
Detail of one of the verdures with Deer and Shields
The Arming of the Knights and its verdure panel in situ at Stanmore Hall 1898
The Attainment at Stanmore Hall. Here you can see the three angels that we have, but ours have minor variations in their wings to these.
The overall composition and figures for these tapestries were designed by Edward Burne-Jones, heraldry was done by William Morris, and the foreground florals and backgrounds by John Henry Dearle.
Textile historian Linda Parry wrote of the series "their design, decoration and weaving establish them, beyond doubt, as the most significant tapestry series woven in the nineteenth century."
images courtesy wikipedia

50 comments:

  1. These tapestries are exquisite Rosemary! How wonderful to be able to see one in such close proximity, with angels wings so vibrant, contrasting with beautiful robes.
    Great job with your mosaic, It looks wonderful!

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    1. The angels are striking Betty. Wm. Morris & Co. used these red angels wings on their stained glass windows too. Glad you enjoyed the mosaic.

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  2. They are exquisite. They have a sheen to them.

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    1. I think that the sheen is created by the subtle use of silk threads within the tapestry. I was pleased that it actually showed up on the photograph.

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  3. Hello Rosemary, Lately I have been noticing the art of coloring, which seems to be very sophisticated in these tapestries. The same colors are used in various situations, both leading the eye and creating links between various elements.

    Is your copy of the angel tapestry as big as the original? If so, where you you feature something so large?
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Dear Jim - the colours in my tapestry are the most accurate. The others would have been photographed using film many years ago.
      The use of red is particularly striking and it does lead the eye and create links as you suggest. The details and different textures are very impressive.
      My copy is very small in comparison - it is about 60cms x 70cms. We have it hanging on our bedroom wall. I was very pleased with the way it photographed.

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  4. Beautiful, Rosemary! I always love Angel themed art. The colours on your tapestry are amazing and for sure befits this Christmas season.

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    1. Dear Pamela - William Morris's angels are always so magnificent, no lurking in the shadows for them. They are redolent of Fra Angelico's Renaissance angels.

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  5. Hi Rosemary, I love, love, love seeing these! Burne Jones is my favorite painter and I adore all things Morris. Coincidentally, Burne Jones' wife was called Georgiana. I have a first edition of the biography she wrote of Burne Jones. It's pretty slow going Victorian prose but still a prized possession.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

    Wishing you a beautiful holiday season!

    Georgianna

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    1. Dear Georgianna - the pictures of Georgianna show a very attractive lady with a beautiful open expression and lovely eyes. You and she were both blessed with a lovely name.
      I am glad that you enjoyed seeing this post, I have been a Morris and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood fan for many years, and in fact, live very near to Morris's country home, Kelmscott.

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  6. Beautifully detailed tapestries. Each with such beautiful colour scheme, it looks to me like in every tapestry there's a different colour dominating, with modest other colours added. I love it. Love the mosaic you made from yours. Beautiful tapestry, you must be so proud and careful of it.
    Bye,
    Marian

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    1. Dear Marian - my tapestry is a reproduction of the Morris & Co. one and was made in your country in Flanders. Glad that you enjoyed the mosaic I made of it.

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  7. Dear Rosemary,

    William Morris and Henry Dearle have always been great favorites of mine, and over the years, I've drawn (literally) a lot of inspiration from them. The bright red wings of the angels on your tapestry really make the piece pop!

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    1. Dear Mark - this year there was a little church for sale near here, which had one William Morris window showing three angels with red wings, very similar to my tapestry. We gave consideration to buying it to convert into a home, but it seemed a lot of effort just to get one genuine Wm Morris window.

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  8. The stories of King Arthur and his nights have always appealed to me. I enjoyed the books on them by sir Thomas Mallory. I read them years ago, but I still know them by heart.

    Your tapestry is beautiful. A work of art!

    Have a lovely new week!

    Madelief x

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    1. Dear Madelief - there is so much mystery and romance surrounding King Arthur - where does the truth lie and the legend begin? Many sites have been identified as Arthurian - Arthurs stone discovered in the ruins at Tintagel Castle, Glastonbury cross is linked with Arthur, and when we visited France they claim him too. I am glad that you enjoyed reading Sir Thomas Mallory's stories, there is something very captivating about the whole legend.

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  9. Beautiful, beautiful wings and all those lovely faces ... I would love to have something like this in my bedroom :) Wishing you a good week, Rosemary !

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    1. Thank you Dani - I have always loved the Arthurian tapestries made by Morris & Co, and when we saw this one in France it found its way home with us in our suitcase.

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  10. Those tapestries look amazing. I love visiting you I learn so many new and interesting facts and see such beautiful objects.
    Sarah x

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    1. Dear Sarah - that is very kind of you. I am so pleased that you enjoy learning about these tapestries.

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  11. Beautiful! I love William Morris and his work, but I did not know of his tapestries. Lucky you to own one of them. Our house is not made out for art like this, but I find my pleasure in his patters on cards and other stationery. My brothers parents in law have a really old house, and they have morris' wallpapers on many of the rooms, from when the house was new.

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    1. Dear Lise - mine is not a genuine Wm Morris tapestry but a reproduction made in Flanders. My tapestry is not very big only 70cms x 60 cms so it is possible to have it in a contemporary home or an older property. It is not much different in size than a decent sized picture.
      Glad you enjoy his different patterns, which seem to be as popular today as they have ever been.

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  12. Hello, Rosemary -
    Your tapestry is beautiful! Such gorgeous, vivid colors. My favorite parts are the wings and the carpet of flowers. How big is your tapestry, and how is it displayed? Do you worry about fading from sunlight?
    Thanks for sharing!
    Loi
    PS - Thanks for the cropping tips on Picmonkey!

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    1. Dear Loi - the tapestry is not very big about 70cms x 60cms. We bought it in France about 6/7 years ago but it was made in Flanders. It doesn't appear to have lost any of its rich colour at all. We do not have it in direct sunlight. The top of the tapestry has a hidden hem at the back and we have a small brass rod threaded through it, the ends of which rest on two small hooks.

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  13. Hello Rosemary
    Your tapestry is an absolute beauty. What are the dimensions of this piece?

    Thanks for another fascinating post.

    Have a wonderful week

    Helenxx

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    1. Hello Helen - it is not terribly big - about 70cms x 60cms but it makes a bold statement.

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  14. Dear Rosemary,
    How wonderful to emerge from our overworked bindery and treat myself to your beautiful post on one of my all-time favorite artists! William Morris has inspired my work and life in such profound ways, and I always love to see examples of his works in situ, as you've shown. Once again, I have that deep frustrated feeling of having been born too late-- wouldn't it have been wonderful to have commisssioned Morris & Co. do "do up" a house?!
    Warm regards,
    Erika

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    1. Dear Erika - as you know William Morris was a polymath, a poet, artist, designer, craftsman, weaver, a master of so many skills and attainments. He wanted to bring back artisan made products encompassing the highest level of skills and aestheticism. Although he wanted this to be available to all, in preference to mass produced goods, the irony is that they were only affordable to the rich.

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  15. Thanks for showing us your beautiful tapestry. I love the red colour used in the wings of the angels, an unusual choice, but so vivid and unforgettable.

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    1. Dear Rosemary - the red wings were harking back to those seen in renaissance paintings but even more extravagant. As you say they are vivid and unforgettable.

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  16. The detailing in your tapestry is exquisite Rosemary from the fall of the fabrics to the flowers growing on the edge of the woodland. Your mosiac reminds me of the little tile puzzles we would have as children. Merry merry!

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    1. Dear Paul - I was pleased with the way the tapestry photographed, picking up on the slight sheen, and all the details. These little digital cameras never cease to amaze me. Now you mention it I am reminded of those little tile puzzles too - slide the tiles around to make the picture!!!

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  17. Rosemary your tapestry is just beautiful, and a real treasure to have. As others have said, the red wings and carpet of flowers are exquisitely striking. I am another Pre-Raphaelite fan, and love the work of Burne-Jones particularly. Our local gallery owns a beautiful Burne-Jones painting of Aurora which I love. William Morris never goes out of style or favour - simply lovely. And the mosaic is enchanting!

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    1. Dear Patricia - I have just looked at the painting of Aurora that you have in the Queensland Art Gallery, it is exquisite. I was reading about the new frame that the gallery have put on the painting, and how they used the assistance of the Head of Frame Conservation at the Tate Gallery in London. I was also interested to read that the background to the painting was based on sketches of a canal in Oxford which Burne-Jones made during a family holiday in 1867.
      Your comment has taken me on an interesting journey - thank you.

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    2. Thankyou Rosemary, and I am glad you found our Aurora. I love to include it in my gallery tours.

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    3. May be she would make you a fitting subject for a future post sometime!!!

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  18. They are very beautiful Rosemary
    The colours and they way everything floats...

    Have a wonderful new week : )

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    1. Thank you Demie - hope all is well with you, I expect your little family are getting excited about Christmas.

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  19. Lovely post Rosemary. Just as Mark has drawn inspiration from William Morris so have I. Morris designs translate beautifully to ceramic tiles and tableware.

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    1. Dear Gina - I can well imagine lots of inspiration from his wonderful wallpaper patterns transferring beautifully to ceramic tiles and tableware. His acanthus leaves, pomegranates, artichokes, arbutus, and blackthorn to name but a few. His designs seem to be timeless.
      Glad you enjoyed the post Gina, take care in the cold.

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  20. Dear Rosemary
    I have known only William Morris fabrics. Your tapestry is exquisitely beautiful, must be a priceless treasure of yours. The details of angels’ garments and wings and floral patterns are superb with Morris-tone colors and designs.

    Thank you for the pleasure of your friendship this year. I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a New Year full of happiness and prosperity.

    Yoko

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    1. Dear Yoko - what a multi talented person Wm. Morris was. Glad you enjoyed seeing the tapestry, I was surprised how well it photographed.
      May I send good wishes to you too. It has been lovely getting to know more about you over the past year, enjoying your wonderful photographs and friendship - thank you.

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  21. Absolutely love your mosaic, even more than the original if that were possible!

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    1. I was just messing about Elizabeth, as if I haven't got better things to do at this busy Christmas stage, but glad you enjoyed seeing.

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  22. Each tapestry is magnificent! Seeing them in colour is wonderful. I would love to study them in close detail. the countless hours of work in each is mind boggling.

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    1. Dear Karen - they are actually made on hand looms, so not done with needle and thread. The colours are beautiful.

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  23. So lovely art of tapestry with bright and strong colours !I liked the details of their clothes !I noticed that the design of the clothes has the same plan in a different way at the first picture ! Thank you Rosemary for this post ! I have missed many !

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    1. Dear Olympia - there were six tapestries designed for the large room which I showed in the vintage photographs, so there was a scheme and plan to them all. The colours and style are all designed to compliment one another. The clothes are intended to reflect the medieval period of dress.

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