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The Forest

Tapestry
1887 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

William Morris' use of birds and animals in his early tapestries is a forebear to his later carpet patterns. This design, one of his most successful compositions, uses a dense cover of trailing acanthus leaves, as seen in his first tapestry 'Acanthus and Vine', into which have been placed Philip Webb's five studies of animals and birds. It is possible that Henry Dearle supplied foreground floral details, although these are similar to Webb's preparatory drawings. The verse was later published under the title 'The Lion' in Morris's Poems By the Way.

The tapestry was woven by Morris & Co.'s three most senior weavers 'under the superintendence of William Morris' according to the 1890 Arts and Crafts Exhibition catalogue. Bought by Aleco Ionides for 1 Holland Park, in London, it hung in the study together with an acanthus-leaf panel.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Tapestry woven wool and silk on a cotton warp
Brief Description
The Forest, tapestry woven wool and silk on a cotton warp, designed by William Morris, Philip Webb and John Henry Dearle, woven at Merton Abbey by William Knight, John Martin and William Sleath, 1887.
Physical Description
Tapestry depicting birds, animals and flowers within a dense cover of trailing acanthus leaves with an embroidered inscription.
Dimensions
  • Height: 116.8cm
  • Width: 152.4cm
  • Depth: 73.7cm
  • Top edge width: 4630mm
  • Bottom edge width: 4625mm
  • Proper right length: 1258mm
  • Proper left length: 1255mm
  • Weighed on roller weight: 24.5kg
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
'the beast that be in woodland waste, now sit and see nor ride nor haste' (English; top; embroidery; wool)
Gallery Label
International Arts & Crafts Morris placed great value on work and the joy of craftsmanship. His belief in the natural beauty of materials led him to learn and revive traditional skills such as natural dyeing, hand block printing and tapestry weaving. This design is one of Morris & Co.'s most successful compositions.(17/03/2005)
Credit line
Purchased with Art Fund support
Object history
It is probable that the acanthus depicted in the tapestry was designed by William Morris, animals by Philip Webb and foreground floral details by Henry Dearle.



William Morris was inspired by late medieval large leaf verdure tapestries such as 862 to F-1894, 1540-1600, Southern Netherlands, acquired by the V&A some years after The Forest was designed. A note in the registered file for this acquisition reads ‘Mr William Morris was shown these pieces and liked them very much’ 10 January, 1895.

Historical context
The Forest Tapestry was woven at Morris' tapestry works, Merton Abbey, in 1887. With its elaborately filigreed patterning and sumptuous detail, the tapestry is a superb example of Morris' revivial of the craftsmanly richness and precision of medieval art. It was acquired from the artist by Aleco Ionides of 1 Holland Park from whose heirs the museum purchased it in 1926.
Subjects depicted
Association
Summary
William Morris' use of birds and animals in his early tapestries is a forebear to his later carpet patterns. This design, one of his most successful compositions, uses a dense cover of trailing acanthus leaves, as seen in his first tapestry 'Acanthus and Vine', into which have been placed Philip Webb's five studies of animals and birds. It is possible that Henry Dearle supplied foreground floral details, although these are similar to Webb's preparatory drawings. The verse was later published under the title 'The Lion' in Morris's Poems By the Way.



The tapestry was woven by Morris & Co.'s three most senior weavers 'under the superintendence of William Morris' according to the 1890 Arts and Crafts Exhibition catalogue. Bought by Aleco Ionides for 1 Holland Park, in London, it hung in the study together with an acanthus-leaf panel.
Bibliographic References
  • Parry, Linda, ed. William Morris. London: Philip Wilson Publishers Limited, 1996. 384 p., ill. ISBN 0856674419
  • Livingstone, Karen & Parry, Linda (eds.), International Arts and Crafts, London : V&A Publications, 2005p.16
Collection
Accession Number
T.111-1926

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record createdJanuary 13, 2004
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