Raison d'etre

I am enthusiastic about home design and love French antique and vintage treasures.

This blog is about the things I find and use.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

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Hardwick Hall Tapestries

Because of my interest in tapestries - I use fragments to make cushions - I like to visit as many places where they are preserved as I can and a few weeks ago this was Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire.Built by Elizabeth Cavendish, Bess of Hardwick, in the 1590s it was an astounding building for its time incorporating so many windows it was described as having 'more glass than wall'.  

Tapestries were used extensively to cover the walls.  Some came from that other great house of the Cavendish family - Chatsworth - and others were bought by Bess for Hardwick.  In fact the series of thirteen enormous Brussels tapestries illustrating the Story of Gideon which hang in the Long Gallery were acquired 'second hand' from the then Lord Chancellor who had run up enormous debts.  Elizabeth bought them at a knock down price of £326.15.9d which she then had reduced because it was necessary to superimpose her own arms over those of Sir Christopher.

Long Gallery with the Story of Gideon tapestries
In the Green Velvet Room the walls are lined with four tapestries telling the story of Abraham 

Green Velvet Room with Abraham tapestries

In the High Great Chamber, as well as a superb plaster frieze, hang the Ulysses tapestries

On a more human scale are four tapestries depicting putti playing games found on one of the staircases. These were made, not in Flanders, but in the short lived Hatton Garden workshop - albeit using Flemish weavers,  They date from 1678 and were acquired by a subsequent generation after Bess's death.  They are known as the 'Polidoros' - it is believed the designs were taken from a series of paintings by Polidoro di Carravagio acquired by Charles 1.

Hatton Garden late 17th century
Hatton Garden Playing Boys c. 1678

My interest in tapestry - and in the preserving of fragments by making them into cushions - gained immeasurably from looking closely at the Hardwick hangings.  Details of borders I find especially interesting for it is fragments from these which I am most able to find and use.  The motifs and subjects used at different periods and from different locations cast a light onto the origins of pieces.

The Trust has been undertaking conservation of the Gideon tapestries from Hardwick and is now on the eleventh in the series: 


The subject of conserving tapestry came up recently when chatting with a fellow blogger in the United States.  Ann was fortunate to take part in the restoration of a tapestry from a church in Milwaukee which she describes here: http://annquiltsblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/and-now-for-something-completely.html