On Friday, Lynn and I continued our holiday in Paris with a visit to the Gobelin Tapestry Manufactory. For those of you of British heritage, please permit me to clarify one point: to my way of thinking there is a definite, structural difference between embroidery and tapestry. For me, embroidery is stitching on a layer of fabric, whereas tapestry is the weaving of a graphical image or design as a single piece of material, usually for a large wall hanging often used to decorate and warm cold stone walls. I believe, therefore, that The Bayeux Tapestry is a misnomer; the piece would be more correctly titled The Bayeux Embroidery.
When it comes to European tapestry, two names hold pride of place. Aubusson is one, and Gobelin is the other. Now, I'm not here to give you a lesson on the history of tapestry design and manufacture; you can pick up that information from Wikipedia and elsewhere online. Here, I wish only to share with you my utter amazement at the diversity and quality of design and construction that we saw in the exhibition currently on display at the Gobelin works. Let me show you what I mean:
The amount of detail in each design was mind-boggling. Colors changed every few threads, and sometimes with every warp thread.
The piece that really caught my eye depended entirely upon backlighting to make it remarkable. It was woven from plastic tubing--that's right, the whole thing! With a brightly lit white wall behind it, the colors and the transparency effects were truly amazing! My primary photo was taken from a side angle to capture the 3-d quality of the work; the detail shows the transparency effects created by the tubing.
Within about five minutes of our arrival, I realized the tapestries were not worked nor hung as I expected, with vertical warp and horizontal weft. There was no one available in the gallery to answer my question, so I did an online search and came up with this explanation, well stated by Elizabeth Buckley:
This last photo is not of a tapestry. It is merely a camera shot looking out of the gallery window upon the street scene below. Perhaps I should turn my photo into a cartoon and get busy weaving? No--wait! How about this as a design for a new quilt?!!
I cannot believe I was so enthralled just looking at these huge pieces of art, hanging on the walls, upholstering the furniture, and lying on platforms as pile carpets, that I neglected to photograph the artists' information, so I sadly cannot tell you who designed the tapestries I share with you here. If anyone can help me with that, please do so as comments below--thanks!