Beautiful and Elegant Collection of Antique Tapestries

Antique Tapestries – A wall hanging tapestry, simply put, is a textile specifically designed and woven to portray an artistic scene with the intent of hanging it on a wall. An antique tapestry would be one that was produced at least 100 years ago. Antique tapestries are highly sought after collectible items with examples displayed prominently in many museums around the world.

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While some wall tapestries can date to the biblical era, most of the great examples known today are from the medieval or Renaissance periods of history. Nobility and wealthy patrons commissioned tapestries depicting scenes or images of importance. The tapestry served as a large-scale mobile art piece which would have been displayed on the wall of a castle or home and was easily transportable from home to home.

Many of the surviving antique tapestries depict religious and / or historic events. For example, a king might have commissioned an antique tapestry with a scene depicting a great victory in battle. As the king moved to his various palaces or castles the tapestry could be moved along with him as well. Another example could be a religious antique tapestry, commissioned by a religious institution and some would only be displayed at the church or cathedral during certain religious events. Other wall tapestries might display images of a family and those would usually depict the family’s coats of arms. Antique tapestries vary in size, and range from items that would cover a single wall of a small room to major works that are massive in size. Some antique wall hanging tapestry rugs are actually sets or a series of works on a common theme.

Weavers used the natural materials available at the time. Wool, cotton, silk and linen threads were dyed to the desired colors before weaving. Some tapestries also included gold and silver thread accents. Sadly enough, in the past, there were owners who destroyed some of these tapestries to recover the precious metals leaving fewer examples of this  breathtaking form of the art.

A tapestry is largely thought of as a European form of textile art. Most of the major countries of Europe did produce tapestries with a highly developed art forms evident in Germany, Spain, Belgium, France and more. Antique Tapestry rug weavers continue to produce works of textile art till this very day so not every tapestry is an antique.

Antique Tapestries are perhaps the most venerable and highly prized medium of textile art. Tapestries have been woven almost from the beginning of weaving itself, and already in ancient times, this technique was adapted to pictorial compositions as well as ornamental designs. Antique Tapestries or ‘Woven paintings’ of this kind were known to the court arts of Egypt, the ancient Near East, and the Greeks and Romans as well. It was this ancient tradition that was passed down through the Middle Ages into the Renaissance and Baroque periods in Europe, where pictorial tapestry rugs became a medium of painting in its own right utilizing designs by all the great ‘Old Masters’. Nazmiyal is proud to offer a distinguished collection of such European antique tapestries whose historic importance or value is equal to their beauty and elegance as great works of art.

Trend Alert: Hanging Wall Tapestries As  Art

Newsflash — tapestries are trending! It’s been some 40 years since tapestries have been a trending item. Now, they’re reaching new horizons. This is a true comeback story of an old and sometimes under-appreciated art form that’s receiving a major makeover and a huge popularity boost.

Modern Interior with Tapestry on Wall Nazmiyal
Modern Interior with Tapestry on Wall

Trendsetters in Paris welcomed the tapestry craze in 2013 by hosting an important and forward-thinking exhibition focusing on modern tapestries and rugs with an urban flavor. The Pompidou Center’s “Decorum” collection was the largest textile exhibit ever displayed at the Musee d’Art Moderne.

It included everything from Picasso carpets to modern tapestries depicting plush sneakers, a furry bathrobe and a supersized Welsh corgi. Smaller galleries in Germany, Italy and China are currently enjoying this “Neo Craft” movement that has brought new artists into the spotlight.

Around the world, traditional neoclassical and baroque tapestries in the style of Aubusson, the Savonnerie and Flanders are experiencing a revival. The famous “Lady and the Unicorn” series recently toured Japan and has brought renewed interest in an art form that was once considered superior to painting. Neoclassical and antique Flemish tapestries like the one spotted in the hit drama Downton Abbey are popping up on the runway.

Wall tapestry fashions from Dolce & Gabbana, Anthropologie and shoemaker Jeffrey Campbell artfully blend neoclassical designs with Bohemian variations reminiscent of Bessarabian blossoms, colorful Karabagh bouquets and the high-contrast flowers found in Russian lacquer-ware. This melding of couture and folk art is making its way from elite fashion houses to mainstream brands and home interiors.

Opulent Interior Design with Antique Tapestry Nazmiyal
Opulent Interior Design with Antique Tapestry on wall

Hand woven tapestries and limited-edition works are also gaining favor. Eccentric tapestries, both vintage and contemporary, are appearing in stylish interiors everywhere. Small wall hangings impart an eclectic flavor while larger textural works have an experiential effect. Shaggy vintage Swedish rya tapestry rugs, flat weave rugs / kilims in the Navajo style and colorful Bauhaus works that employ advanced slit weaving techniques or use a combination of materials and weaving methods are trending as well.

These unique items are often one-of-a-kind or created for limited production runs. Design and production aspects also align with increasing preferences for rustic and handmade creations that have a raw natural beauty. Inside and on the street, this is what’s trending in 2015, the year of the wall  tapestry.

Choosing a Rug as Tapestry Art for Wall Hanging

Rugs for Wall Hanging – Although created as floor covering, smaller rugs also make excellent wall hangings or furniture coverings. A good antique with an effective design worthy of sustained attention will work much like a painting when hung on the wall.

Rugs As Art Home Decorating by Nazmiyal
Rugs As Art Home Decorating

This is why many people choose to display their Rugs as Wall Hangings. Prayer rugs with architectural niche compositions are especially effective on the wall, where they function like windows, so as to expand or open up the space of the room. Supple antique rugs are wonderful as “throws” on a sofa or chair, and they make lovely bedspreads or tablecloths.

Rugs As Artistic Wall Hangings by nazmiyal
Rugs As Artistic Wall Hangings

Indeed, when Oriental rugs were first imported to Europe they were considered too precious to be walked on, but were used instead as tablecloths.

As an example, the leather couch for the patients in Sigmund Freud’s famous office in Vienna was covered by his prized Qasghai’i rug. Many people throughout the years have been using rugs as wall hangings and view them as prized textile art pieces.

While rugs might be considered to be “pricey”, they are nowhere near the price points that paintings are. For a fraction of the price that a great master painting might cost, people could acquire textiles and rugs that have the same, if not more, of an artistic impact. View our Consumer Guide to Buying Oriental Rugs to learn more.

Introduction to the world of antique tapestry rugs

What are antique tapestry rugs?

Antique tapestry rugs are highly treasured pieces of textile art that have been created since the beginning of the art of weaving. They are regarded as a prestige item to own and to use in the adornment of any room. The richness of the designs leads one to uncover new details every time they are viewed.

18th Century Flemish Tapestry Pastoral Cupids 47384 - Nazmiyal
18th Century Flemish Tapestry Pastoral Cupids 47384

Antique tapestries can be considered a mobile piece of art that are easily transferred from one home to another. Some of the better known tapestries were created by the French. One such example is the Bayeux tapestry that was created in the 11th century and that shows scenes of the Norman conquest of England. Also, during the 13th and 14th century, the church had created tapestries that depicted biblical events to illiterate the churchgoers.

17th Century Scenic Flemish Tapestry Rug 45666 - Nazmiyal
17th Century Scenic Flemish Tapestry Rug 45666

Some of the oldest tapestries were woven textile reproductions of the works of prominent artists (some may even date back to biblical times).

What are antique tapestry rugs?

Antique tapestry rugs are examples of textile art that were created at least 100 years ago.

What is considered to be the golden age of tapestries?

The best known tapestries are associated with the Renaissance and later Medieval periods. In those times, wealthy people and royalty commissioned artists to capture events and scenes of religious and biblical topics that were important to them.

Who might have originally commissioned old tapestries?

A King might commission a tapestry to show the scenes of a battle he may have won and would then display the tapestry in his castle. Many religious institutions may have commissioned antique tapestry rugs to be hung in a cathedral or church during specific religious events. In those times, a wealthy family may have also commission an antique tapestry to depict the family’s coat of arms.

Antique Flemish Heraldic Tapestry of A Spanish Noble Admiral With Coat Of Arms 2399 - Nazmiyal
Antique Flemish Heraldic Tapestry of A Spanish Noble Admiral With Coat Of Arms 2399

What sizes are typical tapestries?

Tapestries vary in the size and don’t have a “standard” or “typical size“. Some tapestries can be large enough to cover just a small wall, while others may be massive works of art. Other tapestries may consist of a series of many pieces all based on a common theme.

What materials were used to weave tapestries?

Tapestry rugs were woven using many different materials. Cotton, wool, linen and silk threads were the natural materials available by tapestry weavers to create their antique tapestries. They would dye threads of these fabrics prior to weaving them. In addition, some weavers included accents of silver and / or gold threads in their designs. Unfortunately, few of these gold and silver accented tapestries remain today because some were destroyed to recover the precious metal threads.

Do tapestry rugs have specific designs and patterns?

Tapestry rugs will depict a varied and wide range of designs and patterns. Some tapestries will feature artistic scenes that range from battles in action, hunting scenes, landscapes, biblical scenes and also various aspects of daily life. Others may depict pastoral and romantic scenes while others may feature events and people of historical significance.

Vintage Pinton Freres Gynning French Racing Design Tapestry 49574 Nazmiyal
Vintage Pinton Freres Gynning French Racing Design Tapestry #49574

Are tapestry rugs considered works of art?

Yes. For the most part,  Tapestry rugs are considered collectors works of art. Many tapestries are displayed in and part of museums determinant collections.

Antique Historical Italian Tapestry Caesar Augustus Roman Emperor Octavian 47325 - nazmiyal
Antique Historical Italian Tapestry Caesar Augustus Roman Emperor Octavian 47325

Do people use tapestry rugs in their homes?

Many people will buy tapestry rugs to used as decorative pieces for their homes. Many can bee seen in old castles of European royalty. More often than not, they are mounted on walls as artwork, and may even be used as upholstery.

Dining room interior design with an antique Flemish Tapestry - Nazmiyal
Dining room interior design with an antique Flemish Tapestry

Can antique tapestry rugs be used on the floor?

Usually, antique tapestries are not created to be spread on the floor to be walked on. That said, we have seen people use them as area rugs or floor coverings and it is not as uncommon as one would think.

What is the oldest tapestry in the world?

Woven in Sweden during the Viking age, the oldest tapestry in the world is the Overhogdal tapestry which dates to about the 800 – 1100 AD. This is actually not one but a seireis of antique textiles / fragments that can be seen in a room that was designed especially for them in Jamtli. Other pieces can be seen in the Jamtland regional museum and Harjedalen in Ostersund, Sweden.

Oldest Tapestry In The World Overhogdal Tapestry - Nazmiyal
Oldest Tapestry In The World Overhogdal Tapestry

Where were most antique tapestry rugs made?

The most recognizable would probably be the antique Flemish tapestries that were woven in Belgium. That said, tapestries were woven in many different places in the world. Many beautiful and iconic tapestry rugs were woven in countries such as France, Italy and China among others.

What are the unicorn tapestries?

The unicorn tapestries (also refereed to as the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries) are a series of seven tapestries that were woven in metallic threads, silk and wool between the years 1495 and 1505. Perhaps some of the most recognizable antique tapestries in the world, they have been sparking much debate among scholars and art historians.  Questions such as the identity of artists who designed them, the particular order in which they were meant to be hung and even the meaning behind the visual images remain.  While highly debated, in 1942, James J. Rorimer suggested that the unicorn tapestries may have been commissioned to celebrate the 6 December 1491 marriage of Anne of Brittany’s marriage to the King of France – Louis XII.

“The Unicorn Is Found” Antique Unicorn Tapestries At The Cloisters NYC

If you enjoyed this post you may want to look up some of our other posts about antique Tapestry rugs:

Antique Rug and Tapestry Market Holds Strength | Vogue’s 2017 Home Decor forecast: Green Tapestries | Barberini Tapestries Reborn from the Ashes | Rare Vintage Marta Maas Swedish Tapestry Rug | Alighiero Boetti Vintage Tapestries and Carpets on Display at MOMA |

This rug blog about antique tapestry rugs and their history was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs which is located in the heart of Manhattan New York City.

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