1902 Encyclopedia > Textiles


TEXTILES.1 This word is applied to all fabrics which are woven in a loom, of whatever material they may be made, and whether the woven stuff be plain or figured. The simplest and earliest process of weaving was managed thus. The ground of the future stuff was formed by a number of parallel strings called the warp, having their upper ends attached to a horizontal beam and drawn taut by weights hung from their lower ends. In the early Greek loom each warp thread had a separate weight (see fig. 1). On the number of the warp strings the fineness and width of the stuff depended. The Strings of the weft were interlaced at right angles to those of the warp, and the combination of the two formed the woven stuff or web. The weft was so called from its being "wafted" in and out of the warp; it is also often called the woof, though more correctly the woof is the same as the web or finished stuff. The threads of the weft were wound round a sort of bobbin on a pivot which was made to revolve inside a hollow boat-shaped piece of wood pointed at both ends so as to pass easily between the threads of the warp. This is called the shuttle. The thread passed out through a hole in the side of the shuttle, the inner pivot revolving as the thread was delivered between the strings of the warp. In order to make the weft interlace in the warp some of the upright strings were pulled forward out of the general plane in which the warp hung; this was done in the simplest way by a reed, which divided the threads into two sets called leaves and thus formed an opening called the shred, through which the shuttle could pass, as shown in fig. 1. Another way, applicable to more complicated ornamental weaving, was to have a series of threads attached to the warp at right angles, so that the weaver could pull any of the warp threads away from the rest, thus allowing the shuttle to pass in front of or behind any special warp strings. By a very simple mechanical contrivance these threads were worked by a foot treadle, thus leaving the weaver’s hands free to manage the shuttle.1 In the simplest sort of weaving first one and then the other half of the warp threads were pulled forward, and so a plain regularly interlaced stuff was woven. The next stage was to make a cloth with coloured stripes, by using successively two shuttles containing different-coloured threads. In a chequered cloth the warp was made of two-coloured threads stretched in successive bands, and the cross stripes of the weft were woven in by the two shuttles. To form a more complicated pattern the weft must not cross the warp alternately: the design is formed by either the warp or the weft predominating on the surface in certain places. In all cases each thread of the weft must be driven home to its place after each stroke of the shuttle. In the earliest times this was done by beating the weft with a wooden sword-shaped implement3 introduced between the strings of the warp; but later a heavy comb-shaped tool was used,4 the teeth of which passed between the warp and drove home at one blow a longer length of the weft. An upright loom such as has been described is shown clearly in some of the wall paintings from Thebes, dating about 1600 B.C. and in other earlier ones from Beni-Hasan. A very similar loom is represented on a Greek vase of the 5th century B.C., with a picture of Penelope and the never-finished piece of stuff (see fig. 1). In this interesting paintings the upper band has simple geometrical ornaments, such as occur on archaic Greek vases; the next has figures of winged men and gryphons. This sort of loom is still used in Scandinavian countries for tapestry.6 Another form has the warp threads stretched, not upright, but horizontally,—an arrangement which is more convenient for working treadles. These two forms are called in French "la haute lisse" and "la basse lisse,"—the high and the low loom. The general principle is the same in both. Fig. 2 shows a simple form of the "basse lisse," such as was used throughout the Middle Ages, except in Iceland and in Scandinavia.7 The clay whorls, or pierced cones, decorated with simple painting, which have been found in countless numbers on the sites of Troy, Mycenae, and other prehistoric cities, were probably used to strain the thread as it was being spun on the distaff.8 Other

FOOTNOTES (page 206)

(1) This article deals mainly with the history of the textile art ; for practical information as to modern processes, see WEAVING ; see also EMBROIDERY, vol. viii. p. 160 sq.

(2) These dividing sticks are called in French "batons à deux"; in the simplest kind of weaving only one is required. The use of treadles and "spring staves" is more applicable to the low loom, in which the warp is strained in a horizontal position.

(3) Lat. spatha.

(4) Lat. pecten, ; modem English batten or lay.

(5) See Mon. Inst. Arch. Rom, vol. ix. pl. 42.

(6) See the modern Faroese loom figured by Worsaae, Afbildninger fra det k. Museum for Nordiske Oldsager, Copenhagen, 1854, p. 123.

(7) A fresco by Pinturicchio—911 in the National Gallery, London—has a careful representation of the mediaeval low loom ; the subject is the return of Ulysses to Penelope.

(8) Dr Schliemann found 22,000 in the plains of Troy alone.

heavier ones were employed to stretch the strings of the warp; this method must have been very inconvenient, as the whole warp could swing to and fro. A very obvious improvement, introduced in some countries at an early date, was to have a second beam, round which the lower ends of the warp could be wound. In Scandinavian countries the use of weights continued till modern times. In the fateloom of the sagas these weights are heroes’ skulls, while the shuttle is a sword.

Some simple form of weaving seems to have been practised by prehistoric man at a very early stage of development. Fig. 3 shows an example of coarse flaxen stuff from the lake-dwellings of Switzerland, dating from the Stone Age. Wool appears to have been the first substance used, as no skill is required to prepare it for spinning. Weaving was specially the duty of women, and even in the Middle Ages in Europe it was, in some countries, considered a specially feminine employment.1 An early Christian sarcophagus in the Lateran has a symbolical relief representing God condemning the future world to labour,—tillage for the man and weaving for the woman:—He gives ears of corn to Adam and a sheep to Eve.

The Egyptians were famed for the beauty of their woven stuffs, and almost incredible stories are related of the fineness of their linen, such as a pallium sent by King Amasis to the Spartans, which, Herodotus (iii. 47) says, was made of yarn containing no less than 360 threads; the figures woven on this were partly of cotton and partly of gold thread. Herodotus also mentions a wonderful pallium sent by the same king to the shrine of Athene at Lindus. Few examples of the fine and richly ornamented sorts of Egyptian stuffs now exist, though we have immense quantities of the coarse linen in which mummies were wrapped. This, though coarse, is closely woven, and usually has in every inch many more threads to the warp than to the weft.2 A few fragments of Egyptian cloth of the XVIIIth Dynasty have been found with a border of coloured bands, the blue of which is indigo and the red extract of KERMES (q.v.). in Egypt linen was specially employed for religious purposes, such as priestly and royal vestments, because it harbours dirt less than wool or cotton, which were also worn by the Egyptians, and it was used to bandage mummies, because it was thought not to engender worms. Though priests were allowed to wear outer garments of wool, they were obliged to put them off before entering a sacred place.

The Phoenicians were celebrated for their weaving, as for their skill in other arts. Their purple linen, dyed with the murex, was specially valued; Tyre and Sidon were the chief places where this was made, Babylon, Carthage, Sardis, Miletus, and Alexandria were all famous seats of textile manufacture in the time of Herodotus.

Though no specimens of Assyrian textiles remain, some notion of their richness of ornament and the styles of their patterns may be gained from the minute representations of rich dresses worn by kings and other important personages in the sculptured wall-reliefs from Nineveh which are now in the British Museum.3 The stuffs worn by Asur-banipal are most elaborate in design, being covered with delicate geometrical patterns and diapers, with borders of lotus and other flowers treated with great decorative skill. A large marble slab from the same palace is covered with an elaborate textile pattern in low relief, and is evidently a faithful copy of an Assyrian carpet. Still more magnificent stuffs are represented as being worn by Assyrian captives on the enamelled wall-tiles from Rameses II.’s palace (14th century B.C.) at Tel al-Yáhudíya (See POTTERY, vol. xix. p. 603); the woven patterns are most minutely reproduced in their different colours, and the design, special to Assyria, of the sacred tree between two guardian beasts, is clearly represented, though on the most minute scale.

Our knowledge of Greek textiles, in the almost complete absence of any existing specimens,1 is chiefly derived from the descriptions of various classical authors. One indication of the patterns commonly used at an early period is given by the designs on much of the archaic Greek pottery, which clearly has ornament derived from textile sources. Vol. xix. p. 607, fig. 16, shows examples of these; simple bands, chequers, and zigzags would naturally be the first steps towards more elaborate patterns. Again, recent excavations at Orchomenus and Tiryns have brought to light examples of ceiling and wall decoration the motives of which are obviously derived from textile patterns. A stone ceiling at Orchomenus has in relief a carpet-like pattern, and the painted wall-stucco of the Tiryns palace has many varieties of coarse but effective textile ornament. The poems of Homer are full of descriptions of woven stuffs of the most magnificent materials and design, used both for dresses5 and for tapestry hangings.6 In later times the most important examples of rich woven work of which we have any record were certain peploi made to cover or shade the statues of the deities

FOOTNOTES (page 207)

(1) In the time of St Louis (13th century) in France some sorts of weaving, such as "tapisserie Saracenois," were done only by men.

(2) Some existing specimens have in each inch 152 threads in the warp and 70 in the weft ; in modern stuffs the proportion is the other way. A coarsely woven piece of Egyptian stuff in the British Museum has a border with a man swimming, supported by a float.

(3) A very magnificent royal dress, with woven patterns of deities, kings, animals, and the sacred tree, much resembling those on the metal bowls of Assyria, is figured by Layard, Monuments of Assyria, series i, pl. ix.

(4) One remarkable example of tapestry from a tomb in the Crimea is supposed by Stephani to date from the 4th century B.C. ; see Comp. Rend. Com. Arch., 1878-79, p. 40, pl. v.

(5) Il., iii. 125, viii. 288, ix. 200, x. 156, xiv. 178, xxii. 440 ; Od., ii. 93, x. 220, xiv. 61, and many passages in books xviii. to xx. Homer describes (Od., xix. 225-235) a cloth of purple wool with a hunting scene in gold thread, woven by Penelope for Ulysses.

(6) Il., xvi. 224, xxiv. 230, 645 ; Od., iv. 124, 298, vii. 337. Many Greek vases, especially those with black figures and incised lines, have representations of rich woven dresses,—e.g., an amphora in the Vatican with Achilles and Ajax playing at a game like draughts, c. 460 B.C. A rather later vase in the British Museum has a fine figure of Demeter clad in a pallium covered with figures of chariots and winged men and horses.

at Athens, Olympia, Delphi, and other famous shrines.1 Euripides (Ion, 1141-1162) gives a glowing description of a peplos which belonged to the temple of Apollo at Delphi, on which was depicted the firmament of heaven, with Apollo Helios in his chariot, surrounded by the chief stars and constellations. At Athens a new peplos, orna-mented with the battle of the gods and the giants, was woven for the gold and ivory statue of Athene in the Parthenon every fifth year, and was solemnly carried in procession at the greater Panathenaea. Similarly at Olym-pia a new peplos was woven by sixteen women, and dis-played every fifth year at the Olympian games in honour of Hera. It appears probable that these magnificent peploi were not used as garments, which would have partly concealed the splendour of Phidias’s gold and ivory statues, but were suspended over them like a mediaeval baldacchino. Very possibly, however, most of the elaborate work on them was embroidery done by the needle, and not loom or tex-tile work.

The Romans under the late republic and the empire possessed immense stores of the most magnificent textiles of every description, such as the splendid collection of tapestry which Rome inherited along with the other art treasures of Attalus II. of Pergamum. (2d cent. B.C.). A very costly cloth of gold was called by the Romans "attalica," after Attalus. The C. Cestius who died about the middle of the 1st century B.C., and who is buried in the existing pyramid in Rome, left orders in his will that his body was to be wrapped in certain attalica; but, as this was forbidden by a sumptuary law, his heirs sold the gold stuff and with the proceeds had two colossal bronze statues made, which were set outside the tomb. The feet of one of these have been found with an inscribed pedestal recording the above-mentioned facts. The size of the statue shows that the attalica must have been worth a very great sum. Examples of large prices given by Romans for woven stuffs are recorded by Pliny (H.N., viii. 48) : Metellus Scipio bought some hangings from Babylon for 800,000 sesterces, and other similar stuffs were bought by Nero for four millions of sesterces (about £3360). Costly tapestry from Babylon is mentioned by Plautus (Stich., II., ii. 54), Silius Italicus (xiv. 658), and Martial (xiv. 150). Virgil (Geor., iii. 25) mentions woven tapestries with figures of Britons being used at theatrical shows: "Purpurea intexti tollant aulaea Britanni." Other tapestries with scenes from the story of Theseus and Ariadne are mentioned by Catullus (Argon., xlvi. 267).2 On a very remarkable example of late Roman stuff found at Sitten (Sion) in Switzerland is woven a graceful figure of a nymph seated on a sea-monster, among scroll-work of foliated ornament, purely classical in design.3 A large quantity of very remarkable woven stuffs has recently been found in tombs at Ekhmin (Panopolis) in Middle Egypt. More than 300 pieces have been bought for the South Kensington Museum. They are of various dates, apparently ranging from the 4th to the 6th or 7th century A.D. The earliest are of purely classical style: some have badly designed but very decorative figures of pagan deities, with their names in Greek—e.g. Hermes and Apollo; others have figures driving chariots drawn by two centaurs, or marine gods, or long bands of animals—bears, lions, stags, ducks, and many others. These are used to decorate linen tunics or pieces of stuff about 2 feet square. The later examples appear to be Coptic vestments of various shapes, and are décor-

FOOTNOTES (page 208)

(1) See De Ronchaud, Le Péplos d’Athèné, Paris, 1872, and La Tapisserie, Paris, 1885. The treasuries of most Greek temples appear to have contained large stores of rich woven stuffs.

(2) See also Hor., Sat., ii. 61 102-6 ; Ovid, Metam., vi.; and Lucr., iv. 1026.

(3) This fragment is illustrated by Müntz, La Tapisserie, Paris, 1882, p. 53.

ated with rude figures of St George and other Oriental saints, each with a nimbus. These ornaments are done by true tapestry weaving, the weft pattern being in brilliantly coloured wools on a flaxen warp. In some cases the colours, especially the magnificent reds and blues, are as bright as if they were new. Though in all cases the figure drawing is rude, the decorative value is very great.

From the 6th to the 13th century Byzantium became the capital of all the industrial arts, and in none is its influence more obvious than in that of weaving. There the arts of ancient Greece and of old Rome met and were fused with the artistic notions of ancient Egypt, Assyria, Persia, and Asia Minor, and this combination produced a fresh and very active art spirit, which for many centuries dominated the whole civilized world. As regards weaving, this new development was strengthened by the introduc-tion of silk into Europe in the reign of Justinian, and many specimens of early silk fabrics have lasted down to the present time, partly through their being safe against moths. The silken stuffs found in the tombs of Charle-magne and other kings, though perhaps not themselves as early as the 6th century, show one class of design used in Byzantium in the time of Justinian. Some of these com-bine the figure-subjects of ancient Rome with the stronger decorative beauty of the East. Chariot races in the circus, consuls and emperors enthroned in state, gladiatorial fights with lions, and other classical subjects occur, arranged in medallions or wreaths, set in close rows, so as to fill up the ground. Again, mixed with these classical scenes are designs of purely Assyrian origin, such as the sacred tree between two guardian beasts, closely resembling the designs of 2000 B.C. The manufacture of these rich fabrics was carried on, not only in Byzantium, but also in many towns of Greece proper, such as Athens, Thebes, and Corinth, all of which were spe-cially famed for their silk textiles. During the same time, the 6th to the 12th century, Baghdad, Damas-eus, Ispahan, and many other towns in Persia and Syria were producing woven stuffs of the richest materials and designs; names of reigning caliphs are sometimes mingled with Ar-abic sentences from the Koran and other sacred books, which are introduced freely among the intricate pat-terns with the most richly decorative effect. By this means some existing speci-mens of the 8th to the 10th century can be dated. Fig. 4 shows a 16th-century example of the finest Persian damask in silk and gold,—a masterpiece of textile design.

According to the usual story, Roger of Sicily, who in 1147 made a successful raid on the shores of Attica and took Athens, Thebes, and Corinth, carried off as prisoners a number of Greek weavers, whom he settled at Palermo and made the founders of the royal factory for silk weav-ing This story is doubtful, for the Saracenic inhabitants of Sicily had apparently been producing fine silken stuffs long before the 12th century. In part, however, the story may be true; certainly an impetus was given to the weaving industry of Palermo in the 12th century, and for about two centuries Sicily became the chief seat in Europe for the production of the finest woven stuffs. A large number of examples of these beautiful fabrics still exist, showing an immense variety of designs, all of which are imagined with the highest decorative skill,—perfect masterpieces of textile art, combining freedom of invention and grace of drawing with that slight amount of mechanical stiffness which is specially suited to the requirements of the loom. One of the earliest existing specimens, which shows the existence of the fabrique before the time of Roger I., is a piece of silk stuff in which the body of St Cuthbert at Durham was wrapped when his relics were translated in 1104; this was found at the opening of his grave in 1827, and is now preserved in Durham cathedral library. The figures woven on it show an interesting combination of Western and Oriental art. Birds and conventional ornaments of purely Eastern style are mingled with designs taken from late Roman mosaics,—the whole being blended with great skill into a highly decorative pattern.1 The Sicilian silks of the 12th to the 14th century were mostly used for ecclesiastical vestments, altar frontals, and the like; and the fact that examples have survived in almost all countries of Europe shows how important and far-reaching a trade in them must once have been carried on. The favourite designs were the sun breaking through a cloud from whence rays of light are issuing, or conventionally treated ships, fountains, islands, castles, and an immense variety of birds and beasts, such as swans, mallards, eagles, lions, cheetahs, hounds, giraffes, antelopes, and others. Some specimens have siren-like female forms, with floating hair, casting nets, leaning down from palm trees, or issuing from shells. Others, rather later in style, have winged angel-like figures. In many cases the Assyrian sacred tree and its guardian beasts occur, and very frequently borders with sham Arabic letters are introduced,—a survival of the time when real sentences were woven into the fabrics of Persia and Egypt, probably intended as a visible sign that the stuff was the genuine product of Saracenic looms. All these are perfect masterpieces of textile art, and have never since been rivalled either in beauty of design or in skilful use of gold and colours. Fig. 5 shows a characteristic example; another copied from a painting is given under MURAL DECORATION, Vol. xvii. p. 46, fig. 15.

In the 14th century the chief centre of fine silk weaving was transferred from Palermo to Lucca, Florence, Milan, Venice, and other towns in northern Italy, and a different class of design, less rich in fancy, but scarcely less beautiful in effect, came into vogue. The designs of these l4th and 15th century textiles were chiefly conventional adaptations of natural foliage and flowers, arranged with great beauty of line and wealth of decorative effect; among the most beautiful is scroll-work of vines with graceful curving lines of leaf and tendril. An extremely rich design, largely employed throughout the 15th century, was made from the artichoke plant,2 and was especially used for the rich "cut" velvets of Genoa, Florence, and, Venice, in which the pattern is formed in relief by pile raised above pile, mixed with gold3 (see fig. 6 and vol. xvii. p. 46, fig.14). At this time Venice contained a large number of Oriental craftsmen in all the industrial arts, and very beautiful stuffs were woven there with designs of mingled Oriental and Italian style,—probably the work of Mohammedan weavers (see fig. 7).

In all these Oriental, Sicilian, and early Italian stuffs a gold thread is used in a very lavish and effective way. It was made very skilfully, the richest effect being produced with little metal by thickly gilding fine vellum skins with gold leaf; the vellum was then cut into very thin strips

FOOTNOTES (page 209)

(1) See Raine, Saint Cuthbert, Durham, 1828, plate iv. ; in his text the author is wholly wrong as to the provenance of these stuffs.

(2) This is usually called the pine-apple pattern; but it was invented long before the discovery of America had introduced the pine-apple into Europe.

(3) Italian and Flemish pictures of the 14th to the 16th century often give most valuable representations of rich textiles ; see Vacher, Fifteenth Century Italian Ornament, London, 1886, a series of coloured plates of textiles taken from Italian pictures.

and wound round a thread of silk or hemp so closely as to look like a solid gold wire. In and since the 15th century gold thread has been made by twisting a thin ribbon of gilt silver round a silken core. In this way much less gold is required, as the silver ribbon is gilded before being drawn out to its final thinness, and it is thus liable to tarnish, owing to the partial exposure of the silver surface. In classical times attalica and other gold stuffs were made of solid gold wire beaten out with the hammer.1 Masses of this fine gold wire2 have been found in the tombs of Egypt, Greece, and Etruria, the metal having lasted long after all the rest of the stuff had crumbled into dust. In 1544 the grave of the wife of Honorius was opened and 36 lb of gold thread taken out of it and melted.

Throughout the Middle Ages cloth of gold was largely employed for ecclesiastical and royal purposes. In some cases the whole of the visible surface was formed of gold thread, producing the utmost splendour of effect. Westminster Abbey still possesses a magnificent gold cope of the 15th century, in almost perfect brilliance of preservation. In the 13th and 14th centuries Cyprus and Lucca were specially famed for their gold stuffs, and the royal inventories of France and England show that the kings possessed stores of this to an immense value. The enormous sum of £11 a yard3 is recorded to have been given for a "cloth of estate" in the private accounts of Henry VII. This was a cloth to hang over the royal throne, and must have been unusually wide, as other cloth of gold at the same time was bought for 38s. the yard. Various names were at different times given to textiles which were wholly or in part woven in gold, such as ciclatoun (a word of obscure origin), baudekin (from Baldak or Baghdad), nak, and tissue.4 Samite or examite (GREEK) was so called because the weft threads were only caught and looped at every sixth thread of the warp, lying loosely over the intermediate part. Mediaeval samite was sometimes made of gold ; if of silk it was a variety of satin, called satin of six. Modern satin usually has its weft looped in less closely—satin of eight or ten.

Although throughout the Middle Ages the finer stuffs used in England were to a great extent the product of foreign looms, there was no lack of native textiles, many of which were of great beauty. In the use of the needle the women of England were especially skilful, and rich English embroideries were much exported, even into Italy, from the 12th to the 14th century,5 and were esteemed more highly than the productions of any other country. Two fine examples of early English silk and gold needlework—a stole and maniple with the inscription Aelflaed fieri precepit: pio episcopo Fridestano—are preserved in the Durham library. Fridestan became bishop of Winchester in 905. Other examples of native textiles have been found in the coffins of many ecclesiastics in England. Some interesting fragments are preserved in the chapterhouse of Worcester cathedral; the ground is of silk, and the pattern, of conventional scroll foliage, is a characteristic example of 13th-century design. Pictures in English MSS. show that the low loom was mainly used,—this being the most convenient for ordinary weaving.6 England was specially celebrated for its wool and woollen stuffs, and even at the present day English wool is used for the Gobelin tapestries; in the 15th and 16th centuries it was largely imported into Flanders. In the 14th century Bath produced the finest woollen cloth, and that of Worcester was equally celebrated; in the 15th century the production of woollen stuff was a great source of wealth to Norwich and other towns in the eastern counties. A special sort of woollen yarn took its name from Worstead in Norfolk, where it was made ; it had a closer and harder twist than most woollen thread, and thus could be made up into cloth of special fineness, which was used for chasubles and other vestments, as is recorded in the inventories of York, Exeter, and other cathedrals.

Old English Names for Textiles.—A large number of names for different sorts of textiles occur in old English, writings, many of them derived from the name of the place where the stuff was made or exported. Buckram was a woven cloth of much richness, highly prized, probably quite unlike what we now mean by the word. Damask or damas got its name from Damascus. Fustian, from Fostat (Old Cairo), was a cheaper stuff made of linen and cotton mixed. Muslin, from Mosul, was a fine cotton stuff. Cloth of Tars (Tarsus) is often mentioned, usually meaning a purple cloth. Camoca or camak (Arab. kamkha, from Chinese kimkha, "brocade") was another richly decorated Oriental stuff. Cendal or sandal and syndonus were fine silk stuffs. Taffeta was made of silk or linen of very thin substance. Satin (from Low Lat. seta) was a glossy silk stuff made like samite. Velvet (from It. velluto, "shaggy") had a silk weft woven so as to form a raised pile, the ends of which were cut or shaved off to one even level ; hence it is also called in Italy raso. Diaper, "jasper-like" (Ital. diaspro), was not only used to denote a regular geometrical pattern, but in some cases means also a special sort linen or silk. Phrases such as "silk of brydges" (Bruges), "silk dornex," from Dorneck in Flanders, and "sheets of raynes" (Rheims) often occur. A large number of other similar names are to be met with in mediaeval. Writings.7

Space will not allow a description of the textile work in each separate country. That of Italy and the East was by far the most important throughout the Middle Ages. Even Chinese textiles of gold and silk were imported into the west of Europe, and were sometimes used for ecclesiastical purposes. Mediaeval vestments of Chinese stuff still exist, the shape and added borders of which show that they date from as early as the 14th century. These fabrics exactly resemble in design and workmanship some which are woven in China at the present day. A very interesting survival of the mediaeval style of weaving exists in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. Articles of dress, counterpanes, table-covers, and the like are woven by the peasantry in a simple, highly decorative way, with patterns which have altered little during the last three or four centuries. Though coarse in texture, many of these are of great artistic beauty; nothing but an occasional use

FOOTNOTES (page 210)

(1) The process of making wire by drawing it through conical apertures in a steel plate is said to have been first invented at Nuremberg in the 14th century.

(2) The Museo Gregoriano (Vatican) contains examples from Etruscan tombs.

(3) Equal to quite £50 of modern money.

(4) Hence thin paper laid between the folds of these rich stuffs to protect them was called tissue paper.

(5) The celebrated cope in Pienza cathedral, which once belonged to Pius II. (Piecolomini), is a magnificent example of English needlework of the 15th century.

(6) Among Chaucer’s pilgrims are included "A webbe, a dyer, and a tapisser," the first a low-loom weaver, the last a weaver of tapestry on the high loom.

(7) The most extraordinary spelling often occurs in lists of textiles in mediaeval documents, especially in the case of foreign names. Thus we find in the Bury Wills (printed by the Camden Society) "fuschan in Appules," meaning Naples fustian, and many similar blunders.

of harsh colours shows any sign of decadence of style. Strong marks of Oriental influence are visible in these fine patterns, but the method of weaving is purely native,—probably very like what the edicts of Louis IX. call "tapisserie nostrez." Very beautiful fabrics are still produced in India, old designs being followed, and woven in the simplest form of loom. Fig. 8 shows an example of a modern Indian loom used by the hill weavers. In such looms the richest materials, such as gold and silk, and the most elaborate patterns are woven, often by travelling weavers who can set up their whole apparatus in a very short time.


Carpet weaving was essentially an Oriental art, and was the natural product of a dry mudless country, where little furniture was used and the shoes were removed on entering a building. Till the 16th century carpets were almost unknown in France and England, except for royal personages and for the sanctuaries of cathedrals and important churches. In the latter case they were usually laid in front of the high altar, and thus carried on to the floor the richness of colour which ornamented the walls and vault. Oriental carpets frequently occur in cathedral inventories among the other rich treasures of foreign or native make which adorned the building. They were first employed in England for domestic purposes by Queen Eleanor of Castile and her suite, in the latter part of the 13th century. In the palaces of Spain they were introduced much earlier, owing to the presence of the Moors in southern Spain. In many cases they were used for wall hangings, and the smaller ones to cover tables and other furniture, as is represented in many 15th-century Italian pictures. Though few examples of Oriental carpets exist earlier in date than the 15th century, yet the manufacture was carried on in the highest state of perfection centuries before. An example of the 14th century is preserved in a private collection at Vienna; it was originally made as a hanging for the Kaaba at Mecca.1 These beautiful Oriental pile carpets are among the most perfect productions of the weaver’s art, and till the 16th century were masterpieces of design and splendour of colour. Usually they were woven of wool or of camels’ or goats’ hair, with a separate warp and weft of flax; but many magnificent carpets were also made of silk mixed with gold thread. This extravagance of luxury produced an effect, at least as regards the use of silk, but little superior to that of fine wool or camel’s hair, as the special beauty of the silken gloss is seen on the sides, not on the ends of the silk thread. Pile carpets are woven in a very different way from ordinary textiles: short tufts of wool or silk are knotted on the warp so that the ends of the threads which form the pattern project, and these are cut down by shears to a uniform surface, thus forming a sort of textile mosaic. Each row is firmly fixed by a shoot of linen weft-thread thrown across the web, and then carefully beaten down with the batten.

Various classes of ornament occur in these magnificent Oriental carpets; one variety lias stiff geometrical patterns, the motives of which appear to be taken from mosaics or tiles. Another and still more beautiful sort, manufactured especially at Ispahan (see fig. 9), has elaborate flowing designs of flower forms, sometimes mixed with figures of cheetahs, lions, antelopes, and birds, in a few cases combined with human figures. Mr W. Morris, in his valuable lecture on textile fabrics (London, 1884), traces three stages of design,—first, a pure flowing style, closely resembling the early stucco mural reliefs of Cairo; secondly, a similar style blended with animal forms; and thirdly, a purely floral style, flowing in its lines and very fantastic and ingenious in its patterns; this last he thinks belongs to about the time of Shah Abbas, and lasted from about 1550 to 1650,—the culminating period of Oriental art.2 Since then there has been a distinct degradation of style, though in many cases older patterns have been worked from and very perfect work produced. At the present day the influence of European taste is rapidly destroying this survival of the best class of design, and especially is introducing the most harsh and discordant colouring in place of the glorious rich hues of the earlier Oriental weavers.

Though no existing specimens can be pointed out, it appears probable that the "tapisserie Saracenois" of Louis IX.’s edicts (1226-1270) refers to pile carpets made by French weavers after the Oriental fashion.3 The same edicts for the regulation of the textile industry mention two other classes of manufacture, "tapisserie à la haute lisse," i.e., what we call tapestry, and "tapisserie nostrez," "native stuff," probably resembling the coarse but effective patterned fabrics for aprons and dresses which are still woven by the peasantry near Rome, in the Abruzzi mountains, and elsewhere in Italy, and in Scandinavia.


The making of tapestry (Gk. GREEK), like the weaving of pile carpets, differs from ordinary fabric in that no visible weft is thrown completely across the loom, but the

FOOTNOTES (pasge 211)

(1) See Karabacek, Die persische Nadelmalerei Susandschird and Oestr. Monatsch. f. d. Orient, 1884, p. 49, with cut.

(2) A valuable help towards establishing the dates of carpet patterns is given by many mediaeval Italian pictures, in which Oriental carpets are often represented with wonderful minuteness and appreciation.

(3) Tapisserie in French means all sorts of patterned stuffs.

design is formed by short stitches knotted across the warp with a wooden needle called a broach. It is a sort of link between textile work and embroidery, from which it differs in having its stitches applied, not to a finished web, but to the stretched strings of a warp.1 It is made on a high loom, and the whole process, though requiring much skill, is mechanically of the simplest kind. It is very probable that many of the woven hangings used in ancient Egypt, Greece, and other countries were true tapestry; but little is known on this point. Till after the 12th century, in northern Europe, embroidery seems to have served the place of tapestry, as, for example, in the wrongly named Bayeux tapestry (see vol. viii. p. 162); while in the south of Europe and in Oriental countries its place was supplied by the rich silken textiles and pile carpets mentioned above

In the 14th century tapestry began to be largely made, especially in Flanders, where the craft of weaving became very important at an early time. The designs on the very few existing samples of 14th-century tapestry closely resem-ble those of contemporary wall painting. A characteristic early specimen in the Louvre has rows of medallions, each containing a scene from the life of St Martin, with two or three figures treated in a very simply decorative way. The spaces between the circles are filled up with a stiff geometrical ornament. To the end of the 14th century be-longs the magnificent tapestry in Angers cathedral, on which are represented scenes from the Apocalypse; these were made at Arras, the chief seat of the tapestry manu-facture, both for quantity and quality. Hence the name arras (Italian arazzi) came to mean any sort of tapestry, wherever it was made. Another magnificent series of arras work is preserved in Rheims cathedral, with designs from the history of Clovis; these date from the middle of the 15th century. In the 14th century Flanders produced enormous quantities of woven stuffs. At that time twenty seven streets were occupied by the weavers of Ghent; in 1382 there were 50,000 weavers in Louvain; and at Ypres there is said to have been a still larger number. From about 1450 to 1500 was the golden age for tapestry, especially in Bruges and Arras, where large quantities of the most magnificent historical pieces were woven from designs supplied by painters of the Van Eyck school. The Flemish tapestries of that time are perfect models of textile art, rich in colour, strong in decorative effect, graceful in drawing and composition, and arranged with consummate skill to suit the exigencies of the loom and the aesthetic requirements of wall decoration. A very beautiful example of this class exists at Hampton Court, hung in the dark under the gallery in the great hall,—a striking contrast to the clever but artistically degraded tapestries of half a century later, which hang round the main walls of the hall. Other fine examples exist in the Cluny, Bern, and other museums, and especially in Madrid1–in the royal collection and in that of the duke of Alva—and elsewhere in Spain. Though very rich and varied in effect, the tapestry of the best period usually is woven with not more than twenty different tints of wool,—half tints and grada-tions being got by hatching one colour into another. In the 16th century about sixty colours were principally em-ployed in the still fine but rapidly deteriorating tapestry

FOOTNOTES (page 212)

(1) In tapestry the weft stitches are put in loosely and carefully pressed home, so that the warp strings are completely hidden.

(2) See Riaño, Tapestry of the Palace at Madrid, London, 1875 ; of all countries Spain is the richest in tapestry of the 15th and 16th centirries. The royal collection contains 2600 large pieces. Rich stores also belong to the principal cathedrals, such as Toledo, which on the feast of Corpus Christi is completely hung round with tapestry outside as well as inside. In the 17th century tapestry looms were worked in Spain under royal patronage. One of Velazquez’s finest pictures in the Madrid Gallery (Las Hilanderas) represents the visit of some court ladies to a tapestry fabrique, in which women are work-ing the looms.

of that period ; and in the laborious but artistically worth-less productions of the Gobelin factory more than 14,000 differently tinted wools are now used.

In the 16th century the art began to decline ; very slight symptoms of decadence are visible in the beautiful tapestries with Petrarch’s Triumphs in the South Kensington Museum,—most gorgeous pieces of textile art, of the richest decorative effect. These were worked very soon after 1500 (see fig.10). The influence of Raphael and bis school succeeded that of the 15th-century Flemish painters, and was utterly destructive of true art value in tapestry. Raphael’s cartoons, fine as they are in composition, are designed without the least reference to textile requirements, and are merely large pictures, which the weavers had to copy as best they might. This new style, which reduced the art to a feeble copyism of painting, gave the death-blow to the produc-tion of really fine tapestry. Brussels became the chief place for the manufacture after the taking of Arras by Louis XI. in 1477, and its weavers with wonderful skill imitated any sort of painting that was put before them. Cartoons were drawn by several of Raphael’s pupils, such as Giulio Romano and Giovanni da Udine, and by Mabuse, Michiel Coxcie, Bernard van Orley, and other Italianized Flemish painters.

In 1539 Francis I. founded a factory for tapestry at Fontainebleau, and soon after other high looms were set up in Paris, examples from which still exist and show a rapid degradation of style. In 1603 a new factory was started in Paris under royal patronage, in the workshop of a family of dyers named Gobelin, after whom the new factory was named (see GOBELIN). The Gobelin looms were first worked by weavers from Flanders, who soon taught the mysteries of the craft to a number of French workmen. Cartoons were supplied by Simon Vouet and other distinguished French painters. In the reign of Louis XIV. a great impulse was given to the factory, and from 1667 the whole establishment became the property of the crown. Louis XIV.’s minister, Colbert, did much to encourage this and other industries. Charles Le Brun the painter was made director of the works, and a number of artists prepared the cartoons under his supervision. In the 18th century Coypel, Jonvenet, Boucher, Watteau, and many other popular painters made designs, often of great size and elaboration, for the Gobelin looms, but all in the very worst possible taste; these include large series of sacred, mythological, and historical subjects, landscapes, sea-pieces, and even portraits,—the last being perhaps the most ridiculous misuse of the textile art that could possibly be invented. Other tapestry looms were worked in the 18th century at Aubusson, Felletin, and other places in France.

High-warp looms appear to have been worked in England in the 15th century, though by far the greater part of the rich stores of tapestry in this country came from Flanders. One very beautiful example of English work of this time exists in St Mary’s Hall at Coventry; it represents the marriage of Henry VI. Part of another series with the marriage of Henry VII. is preserved in a house in Cornwall. In the latter part of the 15th and the first half of the 16th century enormous sums were spent by the rich in England on Flemish tapestry. Cardinal Wolsey’s private accounts and inventories, which still exist,1 give an astonishing picture of the wealth which he lavished on the adornment of his palace at Hampton Court. In 1522 he bought 132 large pieces of Brussels tapestry, woven with Scriptural subjects, and mostly made to order, so as to fit exactly the various wall spaces. He also bought large quantities of costly Oriental carpets. In the inventories are enumerated "foot carpets," "table carpets," and "window carpets," "hanging peces," "borders with arms," and "window peces," the last being strips of tapestry woven in narrow lengths to fit the sills and jambs of windows. Among the "wall peces," in addition to the numerous sacred subjects, are mentioned mythological scenes, romances, historical pieces, and "hangings of verdures," the last being decorative work in which trees and foliage formed the main design, with accessory figures of hunting, hawking, and the like. The catalogue of Wolsey’s linen napery is no less sumptuous and abundant; he possessed an immense quantity of finest linen for sheets and "board-cloths" (table-cloths), mostly patterned with "damaske diaper" or "paned losinge-wise." This example of the wealth of textile work possessed by one rich prelate will give some notion of what England and other countries possessed in the 16th century.

In the reign of James I. tapestry looms were set up at Mortlake, and the industry was carried on during the following reign under the direction of the painter Francis Crane. Charles I. introduced skilled weavers from Oudenarde in Belgium, and the whole existing series of cartoons by Raphael were copied on the Mortlake looms.2 Most of the Mortlake tapestry has distinct marks, such as the shield of St. George with F. C. (F. Crane). Some pieces are inscribed "Car. Re. Reg. Mortl." (Carolus rex regnans). Though closed during the Commonwealth, the Mortlake fabrique was again worked after the Restoration until the death of Crane in 1703. In the 18th century tapestry was woven on a small scale in Soho and at Fulham, and within recent years a new royal fabrique has been established at Windsor, where very costly and skilful weaving in the pictorial Gobelin style is carried on. The only modern tapestry which has any of the merits of the best old productions is that made on a small scale by Mr William Morris at Merton Abbey (Surrey), where work of the highest beauty has been produced. Unfortunately, however, the modern taste for feeble imitations of oil paintings has as yet shown little appreciation of this revival of the true textile art.

As in England, by far the greater part of the tapestry used in Italy was a Flemish import. But in the 16th century, under the patronage of the dukes of Ferrara, tapestry looms were set up in Ferrara; these were, however, worked by Flemish weavers, and closely resemble contemporary tapestry woven at Brussels. Other fabriques were established in Florence by the Medici princes, and continued to be worked till the end of the 17th century. Factories for tapestry existed also at Venice, Turin, and other northern cities, but the industry was purely an exotic, and never attained to any great importance. Since the pontificate of Clement XI., in 1702,3 a papal factory for tapestry has existed in Rome, and is still carried on in the Vatican. The papal looms have produced a large number of most costly and elaborate copies of celebrated paintings, executed with wonderful skill, but utterly worthless as works of art.

The South Kensington Museum possesses the best and most illustrative collection of woven fabrics of various dates. The church of St Mary at Dantzic has a magnificent collection of early textiles, mostly used for vestments ; these are well illustrated by Hinz, Die Schatzkammer der Marien-Kirche zu Dantzig, 1870. Fine examples of early tapestry exist in the cathedrals of Rheims, Bruges, Tournay, Angers, Beauvais, Aix, Sens, and in the church of St Rémy at Rheims. Other fine collections are preserved in the Louvre, the Cluny Museum, at Chartres, Amiens, Dijon, Orleans, Auxerre, Nancy, Bern, Brussels, Munich, Berlin, Dresden, Vienna, and Nuremberg.4 In Italy the richest collections (mostly of later tapestry) are those of the Vatican, the Pitti, the Bargello, Palazzo del Tè at Mantua, Turin (royal palace), Milan (royal palace), Como (cathedral), and the museum of Naples. The Spanish collections have been already mentioned. In England, besides the South Kensington Museum, fine tapestries exist in the palaces of Windsor and Hampton Court. Those formerly in the House of Lords were destroyed in the fire of 1834. St Mary’s Hall at Coventry contains the finest examples of the 15th century.

Literature.—By far the best work for its well-chosen coloured illustrations is that of Fischbach, Textile Fabrics, English ed., 1883; see also Dupont-Auberville, L’ornement des tissus, Paris, 1875-77; Michel, Recherches sur la fabrication des étoffes, Paris, 1852 (a very valuable work); Jubinal, Anciennes tapisseries, Paris, 1858-59; De Ronchaud, Le péplos d’Athèné, Paris, 1872 ; Id., La tapissries, Paris, 1885; Müntz, La tapisserie dans l’'antiquité, Paris, 1878; Lessing, Modèles de tapis Orientaux, Paris, 1879 ; Id., Ancient Oriental Carpets, London, 1879 ; Vincent Robinson, Oriental Carpets, London, 1882 (the illustrations are better than the text); Lady Alford, Needlework as Art, London, 1886 (deals partly with textiles). Though few works treat of the general history of textiles, a very large number exist about tapestry weaving. The chief are—Depping, Règlements sur les arts . . . an XIIIme siècle, Paris, 1837; De Montault, Tapisserie de la cath. d’Angers, Paris, 1863 ; De Farcy on the same subject, 1875 ; Barraud, Tap. de la cath. de Beauvais, Beauvais, 1853; Rock, Textile Fabrics, S.K.M., London, 1870 ; Bock, Cat. des tissus, &c., au Musée German., Nuremberg, 1969; Kinkel, Rogier van der Weyden . . . et les tapisseries de Berne, Zurich, 1867; Givelet, Toiles brodèes de Reims, Rheims, 1883; Louis Paris, Tap. de la ville de, Reims, Rheims, 1843; Loriquet, Tap. de Notre Dame de Reims, Rheims, 1876; Pinchart, Tap. dans les Pays-Bas, and other works, Brussels, 1859-64 ; Dehaisries, Tap. D’Arras avant le XVme siècle, Paris, 1879; Proyart, Recherches sur les tap. d’Arras, Arras, 1863; Voisin, Tap. de la cath. de Tournay, Tournay, 1863; Van Drival, Tap. d’Arras, Arras, 1864; Gorse, Tap. du château de Pau, Paris, 1881; De la Fons-Melicoq, Hautlisseurs des XIVme au XVIme sièles, Paris, 1870; Santerre, Tap. de Beauvais, Clermont, 1842; Deville, Statuts, &c., relatifis á la corp. des tap. de 1258 á 1275, Paris, 1875; Darcel, Gaz. d. b,-arts, xiv. pp. 185, 273, and 414; Van de Graft, De Tapijt-Fabrieken de XVI. en XVII. Feuv, Middelburg, 1869. On Italian tapestry, see De Montault, Tap. de haute lisse á, Rome, Arras, 1879 ; Conti, L’arte degli arazzi in Firenze, Florence, 1875; Campori, L’arazzeria Estense, Modena, 1876; Braghirolli, Arazzi in Mantova, Mantua, 1879; Farabulini, L’arte, degli arazzi, Rome, 1884 ; Gentili, L’art des tapis, Rome, 1878; and Müntz, Tap. Italiennes, Paris, 1880. On French and other late tapestry, see Darcel and Guichard, Les tap. décoratives, Paris, 1881 ; Lacordaire, Hist. de tapisserie, Paris, 1855; Guillauniot, L’Origine ... des Gobelins, Paris, 1860; Perathon, Tap. d’Aubusson, de Felletin, et de Bellegarde, Paris, 1857 ; Roy-Pierrefitte, Les tap. de Felletin, Limoges, 1855; Durieux, Tap. de Cambrai, Cambrai, 1879; About and Bauer, Tap. après les cartons de Raphael, Paris, 1875 ; Houdoy, Tap. de la fabrication Lilloise, Lille, 1871 ; Vergnaud-Romagnesi, Tap. au Musée d’Orléans, Orleans, 1859; De St Genois, Tap. d’Oudenarde, Paris, 1864; Talcot, Fabric. des tissus, Paris, 1852; Guiffrey, Hist. de la tapisserie, Tours, 1886; Pine, Tapestry of the House of Lords, London, 1739; and De Champeaux, Tapestry, S.K.M. handbook, London, 1878; Ashenhurst, Treatise on Weaving, London, 1886. (J.H.M.)

FOOTNOTES (page 213)

(1) See Law, Hampton Court Palace, London, 1885.

(2) See RAPHAEL, vol. xx. p. 280.

(3) An earlier fabrique was started in 1630 by Urban VIII., but it soon ceased to be worked.

(4) The large collection in the Gobelin Museum was burnt in 1871.

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