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Bayeux-Tapsty-art 11/5/11


"Bayeux Tapestry: A Brief Overview" by Lady Eleanor Ravenild.


NOTE: See also the files: Bayeux-Tap-msg, embroidery-msg, P-Emb-Frames-art, mdvl-needles-art, tapestries-msg, Anglo-Saxons-msg, Normans-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



Bayeux Tapestry: A Brief Overview

by Lady Eleanor Ravenild


What is the Bayeux Tapestry?


The Tapestry is not "Sensu Strictu" a Tapestry but in fact Embroidery of the finest and most unique style of Art.



Norman version of the Battle of Hastings. Norman Conquest. Darkest period from 1064-1066. (suggested reading: Book: 1066-The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry)




An Embroidered strip of Linen made up of eight conjoined strips of different lengths. About 68.38 meters long, varying between 45.7 and 53.6 centimeters high (measurements taken after it had been remounted in 1983)


The Tapestry was originally longer , but over time the end became damaged and incomplete. Seven joins or sections in the Tapestry are original and almost invisible. In one place (plate 15) the embroidered upper border is out of alignment, showing that in this case the pieces of linen were joined after the embroidery was completed.


The Linen had an off-white tone to it originally but has now faded to an off-white to grayish color and is often stained by wax or iron salts.


It's a fine tabby weave meaning 18-19 warp or weft threads per centimeter. Wool thread was used and couched work was defined by stem or outline stitches. The same stitch was used for all linear elements and lettering, also used same stitch to add detail or a three-dimensional effect to figures or objects portrayed.


Though no visible lines of drawing were noted on the Tapestry itself, preliminary drawings may have been used. The images were then somehow transferred to the Linen. Perhaps some form used may have been in the way of a sculpture or manuscript as well.


The five principal colors used were: Terracotta, Blue-Green, Old or Antique Gold, Olive Green, Blue, plus two other colors: Dark Blue or Black, which were commonly used throughout at the beginning until it ran out. Sage Green was the final color.


Later repairs were carried out in Light Yellow, Orange and Light Greens. Outline was done in all these colors. Conservators in 1983 were surprised to discover that the colors on both sides had the same tone (color) with little or no fading.


Colors not used naturalistically. A horse for example may be blue or buff, its muscles in yellow or blue. Same instances with faces,  human figures, etc. No attempt is made to represent flesh tones.


The Story is framed between borders at the top and bottom as well as at the beginning.  Borders are not however used throughout the length of the Tapestry. The main scene takes over the upper border. With few exceptions the story is told in consecutive order of the events as they happened and the figures of the principals appear several times.


One rare example of accurate or differential portrayal of characters is Edward the Confessor as a bearded, elderly man. The borders are sometimes used to portray a subplot or foreshadow future events. Towards the end of the Tapestry where the Battle of Hastings is depicted, the lower border portrays companies of Archers, the Dead and Maimed and looting of bodies.


Origin and History


Scholars believe the Tapestry was made in the South of England by presumably by Queen Matilda (Empress and Daughter of Henry I and wife of William the Conqueror) probably around 1082. Its Purpose was unknown. It was first mentioned in the 15th Century. (Around 1463) The accounts listed at the Bayeux Cathedral mention repairs in 1476, listed as Inventory of the Cathedral Notre-Dame of Bayeux. It most likely would have hung in the Nave of the Church, but only on special Holidays such as the "Day of the Relics," and other Holidays as well. The rest of the year it was rolled up and stored away, that is why it has managed to survive for over 500 years (fires, wars, etc.)


It is presently located in the Norman town of Bayeux, 5 miles off the coast of Arromanches, near the River Aure. Half a million visitors have seen the Bayeux Tapestry. The building in which its housed is a 17th century building that was converted to a museum in the early 1980's. Signs of feasting, hunting, drinking, etc. (everyday life) So far no known documentation has been found on who actually made the Tapestry.


In the Tapestry there are the following:


626 human figures

202 Horses

55 Dogs

505 Other animals

49 Trees

37 Buildings

41 Ships


Of the 626 human figures, only 3 in the main frieze and two in the border are female. You find such notable figures as Edward the Confessor (old English King), two main rivals for his throne-Earl Harold of Wessex and Duke William of Normandy.


Among the four obscure characters are a Dwarf named Tarvold who acts as a groom, an English Lady named AElfgyva who has an illicit liaison with a Priest; 2 minor Knights named Wadard and Vital.


Other chronicles written: Vita Edwardi Regis (Life of King Edward) commissioned by

Queen Edith (King Edward's Queen) approx. 1060


Latin version written by Norman Monk called William-Duke William, larger figure worked at the Monastery of Jumieges and covered the period of I 070.


Prose version (Poetic): Known as Gest Normannarum Ducem (Deeds of the Norman



Norman writers: Comeille, Flaubert, Maupassant, Barbey d'Aurevilly.


Notes and Photographs taken by the Sous-Direction des monuments Historiques at the time of rehanging of the Tapestry in 1982.


Designed by a single artist. (Presumably) Final scene missing.


All the colors, caricatures and bold impressions make this a very impressive piece of art.

A fine "Subtly" of history.





The complete Tapestry in color with Intro, Description and Commentary by David M. Wilson-1985


1066 - The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry by Andrew Bridgeford- 2004


The Bayeux Tapestry- The Norman Conquest of 1066 by Norman Denny & Josephine Filmer-Sankey - 1966 (R-1985)


Practical Book of Tapestries by George Leland Hunter-1925


Tapestry- Mirror of History by F.P. Thomson (Francis Paul)- 1980


Copyright 2007 by Robin Goldman. <ladyscribe07 at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited.  Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org