14 May 2013

Dear reader - I have been away, to foreign shores!

And I traveled light so I didn't take implements of blogging with me, hence the gap between posts.

But this isn't a travel blog (there are some great ones out there by the way and I highly recommend Flora the Explora with a little touch of pride as I used to babysit her from time to time - she is a star and her writing is wonderful).

No, this little corner of Planet Internet is focused primarily on all things textile, with a bit of life thrown in for good measure, and the object of our excursion was a textile one - the Bayeux Tapestry!

If you haven't been - Go!

The tapestry - which isn't a tapestry at all but an embroidery - is staggering on all sorts of levels.  It's length (it was designed to be rolled out along both sides of Bayeux Cathedral); its colours (a bit faded but all achieved with vegetable dye); it's sheer brilliant, pure and unadulterated propaganda message (complete and one sided justification for the invasion of England by William the Conqueror) and most of all the fact that it is here at all!

I came away thinking 'How did that survive?' - how did it not succumb to attacks by moth or beetle or mould?  How did it escape being cut up or reused? (History is turbulent - poor old William himself did not fare so well!  All that is left in his grave at Caen is one leg bone! And there is even some doubt that it is his!  And he was a king - not an embroidery!)  And how did it not get blown to smithereens when the Allies invaded that part of France on D-Day?

Here are just a selection of images.

 This is the very first tableau and shows Edward the Confessor, who was a cousin of both William and Harold, dispatching Harold to Normandy to tell William that he, Edward (who was childless) had chosen Willian to be his heir.  (You see, I told you it was progaganda!)

I cannot particulary remember the significance of this scene but there is hunting with hawks and dogs going on.  Harold was a guest of Williams in Normandy (and went of a skirmish with him too).

I love this tableau for the detail showing them loading up boats.  The men a clearly paddling bare legged in the water.  This isn't the invasion.  This was preparation for Harolds trip to Normandy.

Now that is William sitting on his throne on the left of this tableau and Harold is swearing on two holy relics of some sort that he agreed to William's claim to the throne and that he won't seize it himself.  More propaganda!

You might have noticed that there are top and bottom borders.  All sorts of animals - and as it happens some rather pornographic acts - are depicted there, including two camels and some characters from Aesops Fables.

Edward is being buried in this scene, and two things leap out - the detail of the architecture in the church and the exquisite hand pointing down from the sky.

And in writing this blog entry I have just found that there is a replica - in Reading Museum.  I didn't know that!


  1. I can remember studying this tapestry for year in 1965 for my embroidery GCE. It put me off all thoughts of it for many years. I would be much more interested in studying it now than I was all those years ago.

  2. If I had studied it for a year I would also have been put off!!

    But go back now if you can and marvel at it as a whole piece.


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