In 16th century Europe, imperial power was exhibited most widely in portable form. Exchange of currency was depicted in the imagery of domestic wall tapestries, and was seen as a symbol of trade and status. Belgian Pieter van Aelst’s (1519) work commissioned by Pope Leo X, The Acts of the Apostles tapestry series, presents us with historical figures of the Greco-Roman world. In the tradition of liberal-humanism, value is displayed in the iconography of Europa’s triumph, surrounded by the ranks of fortune in Near Eastern figures of Cleopatra, Hecuba, and Priam, the King of Troy. Sovereignty is complete with the Hapsburg imprint of imperial power, replete with the date of King Charles’ coronation woven into the frame of this ecclesiastical masterpiece.
Popular Consumption of Tapestry Wallcoverings
The demand for mundane versions of the ecclesiastical and court tapestries by aristocrats points to the significance of this famous textile. Copies of the decorative artwork soon graced many Elizabethan domestic interiors, as subjects sought association with the value of sovereign currency. Less costly and more portable than fine art paintings of similar caliber and size, tapestries were nevertheless luxuries prohibitive for the average European, yet invested in by aristocrats quite extensively.
The craftsmen tapestry weavers were, of course, in high demand as artists, and typically served patrons whom commissioned their work. Tapestries were woven from sketches, and as a patron would come to invest in the capital assets of the weaver’s endeavors, the more sophisticated and referential the production. Techniques such as the hatching of alternate colors of the weft are woven through the warp in creation of a tweed effect and each weft is intertwined with more than one strand of various colors.
The availability of the different materials impacted production. Yarns could be imported from as close as England (i.e. linen or wool), and as far as Asia (i.e. silk) to the Low Countries where much of the weaving industry was taking place. The sheer size and lavishness of some of the commissions, as can be seen in the Conquest of Tunis tapestries, led to the employment of at least forty two weavers contributing to the craft of the series. The precision implemented in production of the Tunis tapestries was only matched by the preciousness of its materials: sixty three different shades of silk threads totaling five hundred and fifty nine pounds.
Invest in Prestige Wallcoverings
The history of value finds its locus in the court tapestries of the 16th century. With the entrance of mechanical weaving in the nineteenth century, tapestries, and wallcoverings in general became widely available to consumers eager to replicate aristocratic taste in the domestic arts. Purchase sumptuous contemporary wallcoverings to add value to a room.
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