Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Study of the Bayeux Tapestry

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Study of the Bayeux Tapestry

Article excerpt

The Study of the Bayeux Tapestry, ed. Richard Gameson (Cambridge: The Boydell Press, 1997). xiii + 216 pp; 26 plates. ISBN 0-85115-664-9. L45.00.

This volume collects eleven 'classic' studies of the Bayeux Tapestry written between 1821and 1994, and brackets them with an introductory overview and one previously unpublished essay, both by the volume's editor, Richard Gameson. It also includes a `selection of plates reproducing more than half of the Tapestry'. This material allows the reader to trace, through both wellargued claim and counter-claim, the development of opinion on, for example, the Tapestry's accuracy of historical witness (was King Harold really killed by an `arrow in the eye' as the Tapestry seems to depict?) and its relation to other records of the Conquest (did it influence, or was it influenced by, Baudri of Bourgueil's Ade/ae Comitissae?). The sweep of these essays also makes visible the ways in which scholarly protocols for approaching the enigmatic object have changed over time. Where Charles Stothard finds the Tapestry 'wanting' in 1821, he wades in with needle and thread to make `extensive restorations', and, where Edward Freeman finds the representation of Elfgyva `thoroughly puzzling' in 1875, he is content with what he describes as `wild conjectures' (p. 17). In the twentieth century, however, as W. R. Lethaby puts it in 1917, the Tapestry becomes a `work of art' (p. 19), and its designer is, as N. P. Brooks and H. E. Walker put it in 1979, `an artist of the first order' (p. 66); mysteries are now not only matters for 'interpretation', but what is less comprehensible is so, as Richard Brilliant puts it in 1991, because it is `more subtly expressed' (p. …

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