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Hanging

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1580-1590 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Felted wool, applied silk and silk cord

  • Credit Line:

    Supported by the Friends of the V&A

  • Museum number:

    T.209-2004

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 63, The Edwin and Susan Davies Gallery, case 3

This striking Tudor textile with its design of a lattice of scrolls containing Tudor roses was probably part of a wallhanging. The bold pattern (reminiscent of heraldic devices) would have rendered it visible from a distance. The contrast created by the different colours gives an impression of perspective. Few appliqués with a woollen ground survive, and no other example of this type with this particular combination of materials and style is known. It is of further interest because it is not exceptionally luxurious or sophisticated and may have been the work of skilled amateur embroiderers. As such, it would have been appropriate for the less grand rooms of a noble family or the walls of a merchant's house.

Physical description

Part of a patterned wallhanging which has been cut into a rectangular shape. The design was executed through applying pieces of contrasting coloured fabrics to a ground fabric: the ground is of red felted wool; the applied work of blue, yellow, green and white silk and silk cord with a lattice of yellow scrolls with red slashes containing Tudor roses. Some of the blue silk shows edges of a design in red (i.e. the blue pieces seem to have been cut out from a patterned fabric from which the maker of the hanging has tried to use only the blue areas); the silks have been re-used. The back of the piece is backed with pieces of coarse linen canvas which have been roughly pieced together; the backing is glued to the front (possibly with animal glue).

Place of Origin

England (made)

Date

1580-1590 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Felted wool, applied silk and silk cord

Dimensions

Height: 82 cm, Width: 66 cm

Object history note

The textile was formerly in the collection of the De la Bere family, whose family seat was Southam Delabere in Gloucestershire. A Tudor house was built on the estate between 1513 and 1546; it passed out of the family's hands in 1821 and is now a hotel. Although the Tudor panel is connected with a house for which it would have been an appropriate furnishing there is no known documentary link. Lady Alison De la Bere was known to have been a collector so the hanging could have been acquired during her residence in the first half of the 20th century.

Historical significance: The Tudor applique is a rare survivor, in good condition with bright colours. The linen backing appears to be old, and might even be contemporary with the embroidery. These hangings are significant on two main counts: because they are rare survivals of 'middle-market' textiles and because they reveal signs of recycling.

A small number of appliqué embroideries with a woollen ground survives: they include the Linlithgow and Lochleven hangings in Scotland which are of red wool with applied work in black silk in a similar floral design; 16th century textile fragments found during an excavation in a Spanish fortress in Groningen in the Netherlands. These fragments, described as cushion covers, had designs appliqued wool of rosettes, leafs and strips of bands of unknown colours on a madder-dyed background. Generally linen thread had been used for stitching, but some woollen yarns too.

Inventories of the 16th century describe furnishings made with a variety of materials and techniques including a group where rich fabrics, such as silks or velvets were applied to one another with minor details added in silk or metal thread. This technique was used for small items, but also for some of the most spectacular and expensive furnishings of the period.

Historical context note

Wall hangings, like large-scale tapestries, were important furnishings in interiors in the Middle Ages and during the Tudor period, providing both insulation and decoration in the coldest and gloomiest places. At a time when even the most important rooms were extremely spartan, colourful wall hangings would have greatly enhanced the space. They were also used to tranform both simple streets or bare churches on ceremonial occasions, such as weddings. They were easily transportable and therefore well suited to the itinerant life-style of courts of the period.

The market for large tapestries was more or less confined to the nobility, royalty and the Church, while merchants/ middle classes could have afforded hangings of less grandeur such as this one, which might also have been appropriate for a less grand room in a noble mansion. The bold, almost heraldic pattern would have rendered it visible from a distance and together with its relative sturdiness, would have made the textile appropriate as a hanging for draping over a balcony during a procession or even as the cover of a temporary outside structure for some outdoor event or entertainment. Very few early hangings survive because of heavy use: they were exposed to rough handling, being used frequently on a temporary basis, nailed to walls or wooden structures and then taken down. They were also often cut down and altered to fit different rooms.

The technique of appliqué is probably among one of the oldest known embroidery techniques, some examples having been found in tombs from Pazyryk in Siberia, dated to 5th - 3rd century BCE (Rudenko, Sergei I., Frozen tombs of Siberia: the Pazyryk burials of Iron Age horsemen (London: Dent, 1970).

Descriptive line

Felted wool hanging with applied work in silk

Materials

Wool; Silk; Silk cord

Techniques

Felting; Applied work

Subjects depicted

Tudor roses

Categories

Wall coverings; Textiles

Collection

Textiles and Fashion Collection

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