Beautiful and Elegant Collection of Antique Tapestries
What Is A Tapestry?
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. Antique tapestries, those that were woven over 100 years ago, are highly sought after collectible items with examples displayed prominently in many museums around the world.
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. These weavings 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 one 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 weavings, 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.
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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 these pieces with a highly developed art forms evident in Germany, Spain, Belgium, France and more. Tapestry weavers continue to produce works of textile art till this very day so not every example is an antique.
Antique Tapestries are perhaps the most venerable and highly prized medium of textile art. They 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.
The Art of the Tapestry
The art of tapestry weaving is an exceptional art different than any other weaving art. Based on a design cartoon, the background, pattern, and every element is woven over a warp with weft threads. These threads conceal the entire warp when the tapestry is finished, and the warp only sometimes can be seen as parallel, vertical texture in the finished product.
Evolution of Tapestry Weaving
Early tapestries, from the Middle Ages, to the Gobelin tapestries of the 17th century, all the way up until the late 19th century, were made with thick warps and corresponding thick weft threads. These tapestries were often made heavy for a functional purpose: to be hung on chilly stone walls to keep out drafts and keep warmth inside. However, in the 20th century, silk started gaining more popularity, as opposed to other tapestry materials like wool. These thin tapestries are extremely fine and can have as many as 60 warp threads per inch.
The first known tapestry weaving was done in linen by the ancient Egyptians, as far back as 1483 BCE. However, it is impossible to identify for sure either when or where the first tapestries were made, as physical evidence is extremely rare and even then, worn and fragmented. There is scattered documentation of tapestry weaving throughout the very early years of history. Some of this includes in literature. The Odyssey describes a tapestry woven by Penelope that unraveled each night she waited for Odysseus. The Metamorphoses discuss tapestry looms used by Minerva and Arachne. These ancient literary descriptions give us some clue into what tapestry weaving may have been like during those times.
Tapestry Weaving Technique
There are many different ways a tapestry can be woven. The tapestry may be woven on either a vertical or horizontal loom. The vertical looms, naturally, had bars at the top and the bottom, with the warp threads held vertically between these bars. This vertical loom is also referred to as a “high warp” loom. The horizontal looms, conversely, has warp threads stretched horizontally between two table-height poles. These poles are connected to a treadle, which is a contraption that the weaver can step on to depress either the odd-numbered or even-numbered warps, allowing the bobbin to easily pull the weft threads through. The horizontal loom is also referred to as a “low-warp” loom.
Interesting to note is that with both types of looms, the weaver works from the back of the tapestry. This means that with the vertical loom, the weaver can simply walk to the other side of the loom to look at the front, but with the horizontal loom, the weaver must pick up the loom and turn it over to be able to see the front of the tapestry. The horizontal loom is more commonly used, although the iconic Gobelin manufactory worked with vertical looms. Both types of loom allow for several weavers to work on them at once.
Another element of tapestry weaving is the cartoon. The cartoon is a colored drawing done by a painter on a canvas the actual size that the tapestry would be. This was a reference for how the tapestry should look. Cartoons usually weren’t just used once, but many times and often by different weavers. When using a vertical loom, the cartoon is hung either beside or behind the weaver. Conversely, when a horizontal loom is being used, the cartoon is simply placed under the warp threads so it is easy for the weaver to follow.
As you can see, tapestry weaving has been around for a very long time, perhaps even longer than we are aware of. It is an intricate technique that requires plenty of talent and patience, but creates a spectacular finished product to marvel at.
Simple Ways to Hang a Tapestries and Rugs on Your Wall:
A tapestry is a textile fabric that is typically adorned with a scenic or pictorial design. Whether the blends of the design are weaved using colorful threads or embroidered, the decorations can beautify a wall or room. Depending on where you use them throughout your home, a wall tapestry can also muffle sound that penetrates a room. Tapestries aren’t fragile and won’t break if they fall. But to ensure they do your wall justice, they should be hung correctly.
Here are some examples of ways to help you hang your wall tapestry or rug quickly and with ease
How To Hang A Tapestry Using A Rod
If your tapestry already has a “rod pocket”, you can hang the piece using a rod and finials. The rod pockets will usually be sewed to the back or top of the piece. This technique is similar to what you’d do when hanging a curtain or drapes. This is a straightforward and easy method that won’t take up a lot of time.
Simply add and secure brackets to the wall, so you can place the tapestry once it’s hung. When using brackets though, remember that your tapestry will end up hanging a small distance from the wall. How far it will hang will depending on the type of brackets you use. If you would prefer that your tapestry will hang flush against the wall then you will need to go with a different method of hanging your tapestry.
To ensure the proper look and feel of your home, choose your brackets, rods and finials with your room’s interior decor in mind. When shopping for finials and rods, it might be wise to bring a photo of the tapestry and the room you wish to decorate. This should help you visualize the style you’re looking to capture or create. You can use rods that are specifically used for hanging tapestries. That said, if you favor something more simple, you can just as easily use curtain rods to hang your rug or tapestry. Whatever you use, just make sure the pocket and rod fit properly in diameter, weight, width and length. You should also make sure that the rods and brackets can withstand the weight of the piece.
Tapestry hanging rods that are usually between ½ to ¾ inches in diameter can typically hold tapestries that weigh 10 pounds or less. The rod should also be long enough to display the decorative finials beyond the tapestry’s edge. When entering a room, all eyes will be focused predominantly on the finials and less on the brackets. The brackets should extend about ½ inch from the wall.
Find a special place for the tapestry in your room and try to hang the tapestry or rug at eye level. If your walls are expansive or you’ve opted to hang over a chair or sofa, you may want the tapestry hung higher up. This will ensure that none of the tapestry’s design will be obscured by the furniture.
Prepping your tapestry for hanging:
If it was folded for a while, the tapestry may need to be ironed, to remove any wrinkles or creases, before hanging it. We strongly suggest that you test an area on the back of the tapestry first and make sure to do so at the lowest temperature setting on the iron. If the wrinkles still fail to come out in back, place a dye free towel or sheet over the front and iron. Gradually increase the setting on the iron if the wrinkles are slow to remove. Take your time and do this right. Last thing you want is to discolor or burn the tapestry.
How To Hang A Tapestry Using Rods and Brackets If It Is Not Heavy:
If the tapestry is on the lighter side in weight, you can hang it pretty much anywhere using drywall screws. A ruler or tape measure should also be used to accurately hang the tapestry and ensure its level. Just make sure the drilled holes are the same distance from the ceiling on either side (assuming your ceiling is leveled).
Once the holes are drilled, attach the brackets. Take note of your specific type of wall to determine if a drywall, masonry or wood screw is the best option for the job. When the brackets are in place, the rod can be threaded through the tapestry pocket in the back or top. Place the finials at the end of the rods and tighten and set the tapestry and rods onto the brackets.
After you’ve checked to make sure everything is in place and mounted safely, you’re now ready to sit back and enjoy your decorative piece of art work.
How to Sew a Fabric Pocket To The Tapestry For Your Rod
If your tapestry doesn’t have a pocket for your rod, you can easily sew one on. You’ll need heavy duty cotton thread to tackle the task and stitches that are strong enough to hold the tapestry in place. Simply sew a strip of fabric to the back of the tapestry’s edge with a thread that is similar in color to the most dominant in your tapestry. This will help the threads blend with the other hues.
The sewn edge should stand up in the middle, so the rod can fit into the pocket straight and with the right amount of space once inserted. If the top edge of the strip is not sewn evenly, your tapestry will hang crooked on the wall.
Test the fabric pocket as you go along to ensure the rod fits properly. You can use a normal rod or baseboard to hang your tapestry using the previously discussed methods.
If you want to hide the hanging mechanism, you can use a rod that is shorter than the width of the tapestry. But if you’re using the shorter version of the rod, it should be hung using two screws that are secured to the wall at the rods ends. If done correctly, the entire hanging brackets, rods and finals should all be invisible to the eye when looking at the front of your hanging tapestry.
***Please note that you may want to sew pockets for the rods both at the top and bottom of your tapestry. The top will be used for the actual hanging while the bottom can be used to add more weight – thus ensuring the tapestry will hag straight down.
Hanging A Tapestry of Rug Using Velcro
If you’re unsure of the location you wish to hang your tapestry or you might be looking to change its placement periodically, Velcro is a wise alternative to rods. This is because it conforms and it’s also the best choice when hanging tapestries on to a wall that is curved. As a matter of fact, this method of tapestry hanging is most commonly used by curators at museums.
How to hang a Tapestry using Velcro:
First off, choose a strip Velcro that is a little smaller than the tapestry’s width. You will need to use both sides of the the Velcro to ensure it attached correctly.
Velcro comes in a variety of widths that range from ½ to 4 inches. For pieces that are heavier and longer, you should choose wider pieces of Velcro. The wider strips of Velcro are best for supporting a larger tapestry.
The “fuzzy” and softer side of the Velcro should be sewn directly onto to the back of the tapestry. Cotton buttonhole thread is what we would generally recommended as it’s quite strong and durable.
As you sew the Velcro the back of the tapestry, make sure to include two warp threads as this will ensure the stitches are strong, thoroughly in place and the tapestry will be secure when hung. The color of the thread should also be a shade similar to a dominant color in the design of your tapestry. This allows the threaded stitches to mesh with the other hues.
Next, drill holes to the ends of a piece of wood or baseboard. These holes will be used to fasten the wood to the wall. Make sure the wood is smaller than the tapestry’s width and when drilling holes, they should be the same distance from the center of the board. You can use a tape measure or ruler to keep things consistent.
Then, you will need to attach attach the stiff side of the Velcro to the piece of baseboard or wood. This can be done quickly using wood staples. When doing this, you would want to ensure the Velcro doesn’t cover the drilled holes.
You will need to fasten the board to the wall first. When doing so, you should make sure that the board it straight, level and fastened strongly onto the wall.
When level, use the Velcro to secure your tapestry to the board. Slowly press the Velcro onto the tapestry against the piece that is attached to the board. Secure the pieces together working out any lumps or bumps. If measured correctly, your tapestry should be hung level.
You may want to sew the Velcro to both the top and bottom of the piece you would like to hang. This will give you the option of stretching it to help remove any folds.
*Please note that if the wall you’re hanging the tapestry on is curved, you will probably need to secure the Velcro to the wall directly without using a board. By doing this, you will ensure that the hung tapestry will have the same curvature at the wall.
*As you can see in the images, we at Nazmiyal actually attach the Velcro directly to the wall. Some double sided Velcro will have an adhesive side which you can use to “stick” directly to the wall. We do suggest securing it with some nails or pins to ensure that it could withstand the weight.
Mount Your Tapestry on Stretchers To Hang Like A Painting:
You can provide a rigid backdrop to your decorative tapestry by mounting it on stretchers. This method involves taking a heavy fabric or canvas and stretching it over a frame. Next you would need to fasten the tapestry to the stretched material. This method of mounting also adds a unique border to your decorative wall design.
Design a wood frame by cutting thin pieces of wood in your desired width and length to match the tapestry. You can either screw or glue the pieces of the frame together. If you’re looking for more stability, you may want to try corner brackets. A cut piece of painted plywood can be a an ideal background for the frame.
The wood frame should be wider on each side of the tapestry by at least an inch. But you can use your own judgement based on your preferences and have as wide or narrow of a framing border as you wish to see. Please note that if you are working with a tapestry that is heavy, your best bet would be to use a heavier framing material.
Stretch the canvas or other heavy material over the frame. Make sure the fabric extends a minimum of 1 1/2 inches in length on both sides. This will ensure that the material is easier to fold over the edges. You can then staple the backing fabric in place and onto the frame using wood staples.
If you’re looking for something lightweight, silk can make an excellent border. But you’ll need to stretch it over a canvas that is strong or some other sturdy material. This provides the required support under the canvas and allows you to achieve the desired look you want with your tapestry. Soft cotton flannel can also be used in the middle and in between.
You’ll need durable cotton thread to stitch your decorative tapestry onto the material. Stagger the stitches when you’re securing the tapestry to the backing material. The stitching should cross two warp with every stitch.
To ensure that your thread matches, and you can’t see the stitches, you would want to choose a thread color that will mesh with the other hues in your tapestry. Make a practice stitch to ensure the stitches aren’t visible from far away.
You can fully support the bulk and size of your tapestry by sewing along each edge as well as any other areas of the tapestry.
You may also want to blend both the Velcro and frame methods by fastening Velcro to both the frame and tapestry. If you wish to change the location of your tapestry and rotate the walls you’ve placed them on, you can undo the Velcro and easily change things up.
You can also use a store bought frame for your tapestry if you don’t feel like making your own. Take a photo of the tapestry when searching for the ideal frame. You should also ensure that there’s ample room for both the canvas and tapestry inside of the frame.
The glass or shatter proof plastic covering should never make contact with the tapestry as it could cause moisture build-up. When museums display their delicate artifacts and tapestries, they often use a shadow box frame for added protection. You can prevent moisture build-up inside of the frame for your tapestry by ensuring the air can circulate properly.
When you’re ready to hang the frame, you can use similar methods you would use to hang a framed painting:
- Locate the studs using a stud finder.
- Place the two screws partially into the wall and place in a suitable spot for the frame.
- Rest the frames edges on the screws and hang.
- Use a level to ensure that your tapestry and frame are straight.
You’ll find an assortment of hardware made specifically for hanging framed pictures. If your tapestry and frame are on the heavy side, you will need to use a sturdier form of hardware to ensure the frame doesn’t fall and break.
Hanging A Light Weight Tapestry Using Pushpins or Nails:
You want to hang a tapestry using pushpins or nails only of it is a very small or light piece.
For smaller pieces, you might only need to use one pin / nail in each corner and maybe one in the center to ensure that the top edge is straight.
If you have a larger tapestry, you would want to use a pin / nail every 10″ – 12″. This will ensure that it is straight and that the weight is evenly distributed.
Using too few or spacing them out too much could put too much pressure on one of the pins which can result in tears or rips. So err on the side of caution when using this method.
Hanging tapestries and rugs using clips:
If you walk into almost any antique carpet gallery, you will notice that they display their carpets and rugs on the wall mostly using “rug hanging clips”. For this you will need to do a bit of prep work. The first thing you want to do is select the exact location you want the rug or tapestry to be hung.
Once you know exactly where you want to display your tapestry, the first thing you would need to do is drill a piece of wood directly onto the wall. Make sure the wood is a bit wider than the tapestry or rug.
Next you would want drill another piece of wood, this time a bit “thicker”, to the first one that is already attached to the wall. The second piece of plywood should extend about one inch above the first one.
This newly created “step” between the two pieces of wood is where you will hang the clips so it need to be just slightly deeper than the clip itself.
Next, you want to attach the clips to the tapestry or rug. Space them evenly, just like you would do if you were using push pins – about 10″ apart. You should use more clips for heavier pieces and less for smaller and lighter ones.
Once the clips are in place, you will need hang the clips on the wood. You may need another person to help as handling heavier and larger tapestries or rugs may be difficult.
Once the clips are in place, make sure to slowly let the tapestry unfurl. You don’t want to just drop it as it may rip. Lastly, you want to make sure that the clips keep the piece taut and straight. That will give you the nicest visual impact.
Introduction to the world of 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.
Antique tapestries can be considered a mobile piece of art that are easily transferred from one home to another. Some of the better known pieces 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 wall hanging textiles that depicted biblical events to illiterate the churchgoers.
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 piece 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.
What sizes are typical tapestries?
Tapestries vary in the size and don’t have a “standard” or “typical size“. Some examples 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 to weavers who created their pieces. 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 examples 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.
Are tapestry rugs considered works of art?
Yes. For the most part, Tapestry rugs are considered collectors works of art. Many pieces are displayed in and part of museums determinant collections.
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.
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. This piece dates to about the 800 – 1100 AD. It is actually not one but a series 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.
Where were most antique tapestry rugs made?
The most recognizable would probably be the antique Flemish tapestries that were woven in Belgium. That said, others 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 pieces 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.
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.
Trendsetters in Paris welcomed the tapestry craze in 2013 by hosting an important and forward-thinking exhibition focusing on modern examples 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 Downtown 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.
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
Although created as floor covering, smaller area 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.
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.
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.
If you enjoyed this post you may want to look up some of our other posts about antique Tapestry rugs:
Vogue’s 2017 Home Decor forecast: Green Tapestries | Barberini Tapestries Reborn from the Ashes | 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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