The Weaver’s Workshop: Materiality, craft and efficacies in the art of tapestry

Day: Saturday 7 April


Katja Schmitz-von Ledebur (Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien)
Isabella Woldt (Bilderfahrzeuge-Project, The Warburg Institute, University of London)

Session Abstract

Tapestry is a complex and expensive medium. From the Middle Ages, production of tapestry incorporated precious stuffs, including silk, fine wool, gold, and silver thread. To this rich materiality it added a complicated and costly manufacturing process that involved diverse media (drawing and weaving), and which therefore required multi-professional teams of artists, both local and international, to endowe these artefacts with a variety of motifs in elaborate compositions. At its peak in the Renaissance and the Baroque, production was both local and international, the complexity of the product necessitating the support of an international network of workshops and agents acting on behalf of customers all over Europe and beyond.
Tapestry is easily folded or rolled up, making the work of art highly mobile. Owners were thus able to present tapestries in different places and for a host of diverse occasions. It thus lent itself to a variety of purposes, both public and private, as both symbol and sign, and as instrument and image of power and object of desire. Tapestry was thus exceptionally mobile, which invites questions about the relationship between technology, power, propaganda, representation, and aesthetics.
This session will investigate specific aspects of tapestry, both as an artwork and as a high-end product of industrial production via discussion that is interdisciplinary in its look out.
A group of international scholarly experts will consider the development and innovations in tapestry production arising from changes in technology and in aesthetic taste. We will question the kinds of technological challenges involved or how weavers and, for example, cartoonists responded to changes in disegno. We will particularly investigate how such alterations impacted on the process of production and the function of tapestries, whether they were the cause of the declining interest in and status of tapestry as art in industrial revolution, and how we can explain tapestry’s revival in Modernism.

Speakers & Papers

Anthropology of weaving

Ellen Harlizius-Klück (Research Institute for the History of Technology and Science, Deutsches Museum, Munich) The Tapestry of the Cosmos in Ancient Greece: An iconohistology
Isabella Woldt (The Warburg Institute, University of London) Computing Weaving on Electronic Looms

Materiality, technique, exchange

Kristen Adams (Ohio State University) Encountering Tapestry: Materiality and illusion in Jordaens’s Scenes of Country Life
Birgitt Borkopp-Restle (University Berne, Switzerland) A Three-Dimensional Art – Strategies and techniques in 16th-century tapestry weaving and usage

Mobility, exchange, workshop

Cecilia Ruggeri (Université de Lausanne) Du peint au tissé: Some reflections on cartoonists and weavers for post-Raphael tapestries
Pascal-François Bertrand (Université Bordeaux Montaigne) and Charissa Bremer- David (J. Paul Getty Museum) Entrepreneurial Strategies of the Beauvais Tapestry Contractors in the 18th Century

Revival, crafts and criticism in Modernism

Kay Wells (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) Medium Specificity from Tapestry Reform to Greenberg
Caroline Levitt (The Courtauld Institute of Art, London) Re-forming the Past, Crafting the Modern: The Tapestries of Le Corbusier

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