A World of Textiles

 

About a month ago, I had the good fortune to vacation in France for ten days. I’ve always had an interest in France, mostly due to what I learned about the country while studying the language in high school. When planning the itinerary for this trip, I worked in visits to all of the Parisian “must-sees” like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, but I also included a stop in the lovely town of Bayeux, located in the Normandy region.

The interior of the Bayeux Cathedral, where the Bayeux tapestry was previously displayed.

Working at the American Textile History Museum has been a great learning experience for me. As I’ve mentioned before, I did not have a refined knowledge of the history (or future!) of the textile industry prior to working at ATHM. I’m still not an expert by any means, but I’ve come to learn about the overwhelming amount of applications textiles have. My appreciation and interest in textiles has since caused me to explore the world of textiles in ways that I never would have considered. One of these explorations found its way onto my France itinerary: the Bayeux tapestry.

Harold assumes the throne despite his oath to William the Conqueror that he would honor King Edward's appointment of William.

The tapestry, though not a true tapestry (it’s actually wool yarn embroidered onto linen cloth), depicts the Norman conquest of England and is speculated to have been commissioned (likely by William the Conqueror’s half brother, Bishop Odo) and completed shortly after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Previously housed in the beautiful Bayeux Cathedral (which was also commissioned by Bishop Odo), the tapestry now resides in a museum in the well-preserved medieval town. Entering a long (the tapestry is nearly 225 feet in length), C-shaped hall, visitors listen to a fantastic audio guide narrating the depictions of the conquest from start (King Edward’s death and Harold’s oath to William the Conqueror) to finish (the Battle of Hastings and William’s succession to the English throne) as they view the tapestry.

Harold is depicted on the right in agony as he attempts to pull an arrow out of his eye during the Battle of Hastings.

Although I’ve certainly seen better textile artistry (like the tapestries currently on display in our exhibit American Tapestry Biennial 8!), the continuity and clear story-telling was incredible to experience. I’m glad I didn’t miss out on this opportunity and am grateful that working at ATHM has opened my eyes to all that the world of textiles has to offer.

Maren Caulfield
Coordinator of Membership and Development

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