Functionality and Aesthetics of Tapestries

Tapestries are fascinating to me. In the Middle Ages, tapestries were major indicators of wealth and status. Their main function was to insulate large rooms, particularly drafty stone walls in castles. They kept the cold and damp out while adding a highly decorative element. Tapestries became major signs of power and luxury as well.

Throughout the Middle Ages, tapestry design became more advanced, and these complicated designs added artistry and color to bare castle walls. Tapestries often told stories — battle scenes, the hunt, leisure activities in the country, religious scenes, family lineage, and mythology were all popular.

To cover large walls, the tapestries themselves were woven on large looms, requiring many craftsmen and a lot of capital. Tapestries were sold readymade or commissioned to depict specific scenes. The more complicated the design, the more expensive the tapestry cost. Gold thread was sometimes woven into tapestries, adding to the prestige of owning them.

Their portability added to their value. Tapestries could be taken down, rolled up, and moved to a new location easily. In fact, owners might have an employee whose sole job was tapestry care, transportation, mending, and alterations. Primarily produced in France, Belgium, and Germany, tapestries were sold to nobility and upper class across Europe.

I don’t know about you, but tapestry’s insulation factor seems highly useful right now. We could drape tapestries around our homes to help us stay warm during this brutal winter. And I can see their appeal as an item of artistic luxury as well. They are definitely worth a second look the next time you find yourself at an art museum.