A Handbook to the Loan Exhibition of French Tapestries: Mediaeval, Renaissance and Modern, from the Public and Private Collections of France

A Handbook to the Loan Exhibition of French Tapestries: Mediaeval, Renaissance and Modern, from the Public and Private Collections of France

A Handbook to the Loan Exhibition of French Tapestries: Mediaeval, Renaissance and Modern, from the Public and Private Collections of France

A Handbook to the Loan Exhibition of French Tapestries: Mediaeval, Renaissance and Modern, from the Public and Private Collections of France

Excerpt

If there is one particular field in which France retains her ancient vitality, it is that of art. And if there is one branch of art in which she has recaptured the wealth of invention, the creative exuberance of past centuries, it is tapestry. For France, tapestry is in a real sense a national art. Since the Middle Ages it has had a glorious and uninterrupted life. France, almost alone among the nations, had national manufactures of tapestry as early as the seventeenth century. France alone, with a tenacity and a sense of continuity often unrecognized, has maintained those manufactures to the present day, renovating and adapting them to modern taste.

The Gobelins and Beauvais factories have been renowned the world over for some three hundred years. Aubusson and Felletin, whose work in the past was somewhat coarser, have with their present-day production attained the same high reputation. Painters, dyers, and weavers, vying in intelligence, taste, and knowledge, have drawn world-wide attention to this rejuvenated and ever more vital art. They have reanimated French tapestry without deserting its soundest traditions.

These traditions have remained faithful, or rather have returned across the centuries, to the most decorative achievements of the art, the tapestries of the Middle Ages. Regard the thickness of those mediaeval webs; count their relatively few colors and admire the freshness and vigor they retain in spite of their age; wonder at the daring that went into the design of the Apocalypse of Angers, or at that charming fantasy which, against all likelihood, spangles the fields of certain tapestries with a "thousand flowers"; consider that deliberate rejection of a too strict realism, that elevated fantasy which conceived the Lady with the Unicorn. Then turn to our moderns and see what a salutary lesson they have drawn from all this, with what perceptiveness they have recaptured the savor of the mediaeval tapestries.

But you will realize, at the same time, what a radical step it must have seemed, less then ten years ago, to embrace that old tradition, to break away from the classical stereotypes of the day. For the moderns made a deliberate choice; that was their merit and that showed their revolutionary spirit.

Before them, tapestries in the pompous style favored by the . . .

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