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hand-woven fabric of plain weave made without shuttle or drawboy, the design of weft threads being threaded into the warp with fingers or a bobbin. The name has been extended to cover a variety of heavy materials, such as imitation tapestries woven on Jacquard looms, tapestry carpets, and upholstery and drapery stuffs. True tapestries include various primitive textiles woven on the rudest of early looms, as well as the famous pictorial hangings of the Middle Ages.


The techniques for high- and low-warp work (haute-lisse and basse-lisse) differ; both were used in the 14th cent. In a high-warp loom the threads are stretched vertically in front of the weaver, and the lisses or loops which raise the alternate threads to make the shed are lifted by hand; in low-warp work, the warp threads are horizontal, and the lisses are moved by means of a foot treadle. The strong warp threads of wool or linen may vary from 10 to 30 in an inch (3 to 12 per cm), but are ordinarily fewer than 20 (8 per cm). The soft, full weft threads of wool, silk, or metal entirely cover the warp, which remains apparent in the form of ribs.

In true tapestry, the front and back surfaces are alike, except that portions of the design of the same color are connected by a loose thread that is left hanging at the back. The different colors of the design, being worked in separately in blocks or patches, leave little slits between, which are afterward sewn up. All are woven with the back to the weaver, who sees nothing of his work until it is finished, unless he uses a mirror to reflect it. A cartooncartoon
[Ital., cartone=paper], either of two types of drawings: in the fine arts, a preliminary sketch for a more complete work; in journalism, a humorous or satirical drawing.
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 or painting on linen or paper, often by a noted artist, is provided for the weaver to copy. Themes for medieval hangings were drawn from ancient legends, mythology, allegory, history, religion, chivalry, and sport.


Antique specimens of tapestry weaving include a few surviving from Egypt of 1500 B.C. and Coptic tapestries made from the 4th to 8th cent. A.D. The Incas of Peru produced beautiful specimens, some of which date back to the pre-Columbian era. Ancient Chinese tapestries, k'o ssu, were made of light, thin silks, often interwoven with gold thread. Allusions in early Greek poetry and paintings on Greek vases show that tapestry weaving was an important household industry.

The history of tapestry weaving is continuous. In the 5th cent. A.D. and in the centuries immediately afterward, monasteries and convents were the centers of the craft. Woolen tapestries appeared early in Europe. A few fragments woven in this material in the 10th or 11th cent. are still preserved. (The so-called Bayeux tapestryBayeux tapestry.
This so-called tapestry is in fact an embroidery that chronicles the Norman Conquest of England by William the Conqueror (William I) in 1066. It is a long, narrow strip of coarse linen, 230 ft by 20 in.
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 was actually embroidered.) At Arras, early in the 14th cent., the first great French weaving was done, in wool. Soon Brussels achieved prominence and remained important through the 17th cent., until the rise of the GobelinsGobelins, Manufacture nationale des
, state-controlled tapestry manufactory in Paris. It was founded as a dye works in the mid-15th cent. by Jean Gobelin. A tapestry works started by two Flemish weavers, Marc de Comans and François de la Planche, called to France by Henri
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 works at Paris.

By the 15th cent., tapestry weaving had reached a high degree of perfection, and from this century date many great Gothic sets rich with gold thread. A fine specimen is the set of Burgundian Sacraments; a late 15th-century example of a verdure background is the Lady and the Unicorn set (Musée de Cluny). An example of the Renaissance period is the widely acclaimed set, the Acts of the Apostles, from the cartoons of Raphael. Fine weaving was done at Beauvais in the mid-17th cent. Weavers at Aubusson, France, began in the 16th cent. to make an inferior textile that was gradually improved. The baroque style dominated the 17th cent.; the rococo and classical styles appeared in the 18th cent. Fine examples were woven from the cartoons of François Boucher, who worked both for the Beauvais and the Gobelins looms.

In England much tapestry, known as Arras, was used before any was manufactured there. In the 16th cent. William Sheldon set up works in Warwickshire. An establishment in imitation of the Gobelins was opened at Mortlake in 1619 and employed Flemish weavers. In 1881, William MorrisMorris, William,
1834–96, English poet, artist, craftsman, designer, social reformer, and printer. He has long been considered one of the great Victorians and has been called the greatest English designer of the 19th cent.
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 began weaving at Merton; his friend Edward Burne-JonesBurne-Jones, Sir Edward,
1833–98. English painter and decorator, b. Birmingham. Expected to enter the Church, he went to Exeter College, Oxford, where he met William Morris, who became his lifelong friend.
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 designed some of Morris's series. In 1893 tapestry looms were set up in New York City. Some interesting 20th-century tapestries have been woven in France from cartoons by Rouault, Braque, Lurçat, Picasso, and Calder.

Important public collections in the United States that contain fine examples of tapestry weaving are those in the Metropolitan Museum (including the magnificent Hunt of the Unicorn series at the Cloisters) and in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


See M. Jarry, World Tapestry (1969); A. Pearson, Complete Book of Tapestry Weaving (1984); T. P. Campbell, Tapestry in the Renaissance (2002).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/


A large woven illustration hung as a wall decoration.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved


A fabric, worked on a warp by hand, the designs employed usually being pictorial; used for wall hangings or the like.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


a heavy ornamental fabric, often in the form of a picture, used for wall hangings, furnishings, etc., and made by weaving coloured threads into a fixed warp
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


(1) A framework for writing Web-based applications in Java from the Apache Jakarta Project. See Jakarta.

(2) A holographic storage medium from InPhase Technologies, Longmont, CO, designed for archiving data and video. In 2000, InPhase was spun off from Lucent Technologies, and production began for the Tapestry optical cartridge in 2010. However, InPhase went bankrupt in 2011, and Akonia Holographics acquired its assets in 2012. Apple acquired Akonia in 2018 for its optical expertise.

A Disc That Didn't Spin Continuously
Containing a photo polymer recording layer in the middle, the single platter was divided into thousands of optical "books" roughly one cubic millimeter in size. For reading and writing, the disc was rotated to the appropriate book, which held 330 "binary holograms" each containing 1.4 million bits in three dimensions. Each hologram was recorded with one flash of a blue laser, and the amazing thing about the technology is that every digital hologram pattern fully occupied the same physical space as the other holograms in the book. For more details, see holographic storage.

Tapestry Drive and Media
In 2010, these 300GB write-once drives were the only commercial holographic storage product. Tapestry's roadmap called for 1.6TB drives, as well as rewritable discs. (Images courtesy of InPhase Technologies.)
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
References in periodicals archive ?
The visual appeal of Germanic tapestries is generated by the opulent textile patterns of courtly dress and interiors and textural weaving techniques incorporating metal threads and even human hair.
Perry visited Sunderland as part of a Channel 4 series exploring British taste and based his first two tapestries, The Adoration of the Cage Fighters and The Agony in the Car Park, on places and characters he found in the city.
Six of the eight tapestries are part of a set once owned by the Emperor Matthias (1557-1617).
The originals were begun in 1592 by a Dutch maritime artist, Cornelius Vroom, followed by the workshop artists who created the cartoons on which the tapestries would be based and by the Brussels weavers who wove them.
The Raphael Cartoons, the full-sized original designs for the tapestries, have been on display at the V&A since 1865.
(And I cannot really imagine an artist whose photographic work is less suited to such an enterprise, given his attachment to the small snapshot image.) Chuck Close's more active involvement with Flanders Tapestries, on the other hand, is in keeping with both his long-standing attachment to transforming photographs into large-scale pictures via gridded matrices that lend themselves to digital translation, as well as his current interest in the photograph's most retardataire form, the daguerreotype.
These geographically-specific articles complement Campbell's more analytical essays about the display and collecting of tapestries. In "Stately Splendor, Woven Frescoes, Luxury Furnishings: Tapestry in Context, 1600-1660," Campbell considers the prestige and functional flexibility of weavings especially in princely contexts where the proper exhibition of high-quality tapestries signaled the ruler's magnificence and sophisticated tastes.
Full marks therefore to the set dressers or the location finders, since they got it exactly right because tapestries were very much part of the Tudor court.
The Unicorn Is Found tapestry is one of the famous seven Unicorn Tapestries hanging at The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum's branch of medieval art.
Author Susan Groag Bell's thirty-year search for the City of Ladies tapestries begins when she stumbles upon a reference in the 1547 inventory of King Henry VIII's effects held by his daughter Elizabeth I.
Approximately one-third of her business is house and cottage portrait work, while the Heritage Series (of old mines and towns) and industrial site portraits, picture framing and tapestries comprise the other two-thirds.
But rather than featuring paintings or sculptures or prints, this exhibition focuses on handmade tapestries.