1902 Encyclopedia > Mural Decoration > Mural Decoration Methods: (7) Painted Cloth.

Mural Decoration
(Part 6)


(7) Painted Cloth.

7. Painted Cloth.—Another form of wall-hanging, used most largely during the 15th and 16th centuries, and in a less extensive way a good deal earlier, is canvas painted to imitate tapestry. English mediaeval inventories both of ecclesiastical and domestic goods frequently contain items such as these: "stayned cloths for hangings," "paynted cloths with stories and batailes," or "paynted cloths of beyond sea work," or "of Flaunder’s work." Many good artists workings at Ghent and Bruges during the first half of the 15th century produced very fine work of this class, as well as designs for real tapestry. Several of the great Italian artists devoted their utmost skill in composition and invention to the paintings of these wall-hangings. The most important existing example is the magnificent series of paintings of the triumphs of Julius Caesar executed by Andrea Mantegna (1485-1492) for Ludovico Gonzaga, duke of Mantua, and now at Hampton Court. These are usually, but wrongly, called "cartoons," as if they were designs meant to be executed in tapestry; this is not the case, as the paintings themselves were used as wall-hangings. They are nine in number, and each compartment, 9 feet square, was separated from the next by a pilaster. They form a continuous procession, with life-sized figures of unrivalled grace and beauty, remarkable alike for their composition, drawing, and delicte colouring,--the latter unfortunatley much disguised by the most coarse and tasteless "restoration." Like most of these painted wall-hangings, they are executed in tempera, and rather thinly painted, so that the pigment might not crack off through the cloth falling slightly into folds.[Footnote 38-1] Another remarkable series of painted cloth hangings are those at Rheims cathedral, admirable for their noble breadth of design and rich colouring.[Footnote 38-2] In some cases actual dyes were used for this sort of work. A MS. of the 15th century [Footnote 38-3] gives receipts for "painted cloth," showing that sometimes they were dyed in a manner similar to those Indian stuffs which were afterwards printed, and now called chintzes. These receipts are for real dyes, not for pigments, and among them is the earliest known description of the process called "setting" the woad or indigo vat, as well as receipt for removing or "discharging" the colour from a cloth already dyed. Another method employed was a sort of "encaustic" process; the cloth was rubbed allover with wax, and then painted in tempera; heat was then applied so that the colours sank into the melting wax, and were thus firmly fixed upon the cloth.


(38-1) See Crowe and Cavalcaselle, Painting in North Italy, i. p. 404, 1871; and Waagen, Art Treasures, 1854.

(38-2) Leberthais, Toiles peintes de Reims (Paris).

(38-3) Merrifield, Treatises on Painting, 1849.

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