DRAPERIES

Post 424 – by Gautam Shah

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Room_at_Nikoi_Island

A drape is a way of hanging or placing an unstitched piece of fabric. The word drape derives from Proto-Germanic drapiz and drepiz (=a strike, hit, blow), (=intended for striking, to be beaten), it also relates to English drub (=to beat) and Swedish dräpa (=to slay). In ancient periods a drape-able fabric was heavily (beaten) washed, and so soft and pliable. A heavily washed fabric is dull or of unbleached natural colour. At places a dull cloth is described to be grayish to yellowish or light olive brown in colour. The loss of crispiness perhaps indicates use of Linen, which became soft after several washes.

The word drapery is of 14th C origin, but drape or equivalent usages must be very ancient. Unstitched pieces of fabrics were used for covering own self by ordinary people as well as priests and rulers. The draped fabric, if soft, hangs loosely. The fabric, if stiff or of heavier weave remains fluffy, and does not ‘fall’ gracefully. The fabric worn as dress usually has vertical folds, which change with body movements. On a performance stage, it creates an impression of ‘larger than life movement’, perceptible to the spectators in the last tier of the Amphi theatre.

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Drapery refers to composition of fabric used for decorative purposes, around internal or external gaps or openings. It also means any arrangement of fabric used as clothing, backdrop, accompaniment or adornment for a work of art in the form of painting or sculpture. Each artist and each era shows unique techniques of rendering the drapery curves and form. The quality of fabric material never shown as actual, it only enhanced the form of drapery. The colour of the drapery as shown was the artists’ pallet requirement and may not be realistic. The transparency of fabric and body revelations were according to the artists daring and perhaps client’s dictates.

Gandharv Buddha 1-2nd C BC

Sarcophagus of the brothers 250 AD > Wikipedia Image > Farnese collection

In interior Design all types of fabrics are used for draping the furniture, openings, gaps, parapets, railings, columns, brackets, steps and stairs. These are covered with many different grades of fabrics ranging from sheer silk, flimsy organza, sateen, damask, linen, velvet, starched cotton, and later rayons and polyesters. Drapery colour and pattern schemes were coordinated with wall papers, curtains, carpets and other tapestries. Fabrics have been hung with formation of gathers or unstitched pleats, of vertical, dropped or sagged curves and twisted horizontals. Tapestry like one-sided fabrics are also draped over architectural elements of buildings.

Portrait of Mrs Abington British Actress 1737-1815 ART by Joshua Reynolds

Draperies were inevitable part of beds and bedrooms. Bed was the most important chamber for the lady of the house, almost like a female drawing room. Beds were separated by draperies from the room space, and beds structures were covered with drapes. Back side of the bed had hung piece of tapestry fabric or some form of drape composition. Paintings and portraits were edged with draperies.

Reconstructed Royal Bed at Warsaw Castle Wikipedia Image by Giorgiomonteforti

Draped fabrics were great collectors of dust and soot. The shaped drapes if too articulated, fluffy and against the gravity, have a tendency to collapse. The drapes are generally static arrangement, but during the early part of 19th C began to be replaced by simpler curtains. The curtain required pelmets or open hanging rods, both of which began to be covered with scallops. Scallops are articulated drapes, with ropes and tassels. Word Draper is used to denote an expert tailor or an establishment that stocks various types of fabrics and paraphernalia items.

Scallops over curtain

In art forms draperies have been treated both casually and formally, with neatly delineated lines or free-flowing curves. This has depended on the person to be presented like, an angel, Lord, saints, or commoners. Hellenistic period art draping was white or light coloured translucent body touching, but form emphasizing fabric. Gothic period showed the restrained flow of lines. Post renaissances, the drapery presentation was theatrical. Drapery presentation in painting was such an important issue that it was first discussed with the sponsors. Specialist painters were hired to touch-up the drapery work.

ART by Frans Hals 1625

Unstitched Appearals

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VELVET – Fabric of Luxury

Post 385 – by Gautam Shah 

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Velvet sleeves Portrait of Sir Thomas More (ART by Hans Holbein (1498–1543)). Oak, 74.2 × 59 cm. Frick Collection, New York

Piled weaves are used to create textured fabrics. The characteristic texture over the surface of fabric is formed of Tuft or, loops that are cut or uncut. The piles are made from either or both warp, and web yarns. Corduroy, Velvets, Velveteen, Valour, Plushes are such piled fabric constructions. Few other materials, such as the suede, flocked fibres, have Velvet like a feel.

velvet ropes

Velvet is a fabric formed of three elements: ‘a structural warp, a structural weft and a non structural or supplementary warp’. There are two types of looms in which pile-velvet were produced. On a regular velvet loom, double layered fabric is woven, with piles interlacing both layers. After weaving the fabric layers are sheared and separated into two single cloths. The inner faces of the fabrics have cut piles. On a wire loom the piles are formed through looping the yarns over the wire. After withdrawing the holding wire a knife cuts the loop, producing the cut pile. In another option the piles are not cut. The uncut piles have own texture and feel. Often there are dual constructions where one set of warp and web fibres form a plain weave base, and another set of alternate web or warp fibres create piles. The piles may be cut or left uncut as loops.

Blue velvet dress of Diana, Princess of Wales http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/photographs/vips.html

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Velvet weaving originated somewhere on the far east side of the silk route. From here it must have been taken by the Arabs to Europe. The Persian and Hindi (India) word for velvet is Makhmal, literally meaning silky or smooth feel. Mughal and Safavid (Iranian) weavers not only exploited the properties of velvet but enriched it with gold and silver. They also dyed the fabric to dark and deep colours. In Europe, during 12th C. velvet found a base in Italian towns of Lucca, Sicily and Florence.

Throne chair of Stanislaus Augustus Warsaw

491px-Sample_-_Google_Art_Project

The cut-pile method of fabric surface forming is used in two other types of fabrics: namely, Velveteens and Valours. Velveteen is usually made of cotton or its blends. It has shorter and stiffer pile that lies flat. It is sturdy and durable but has poorer draping, and lesser sheen. It is also less denser and so used as craft or toy making fabric. Velvet is a very ancient fabric, whereas velveteen is of recent making. Velour is often called a stretch fabric. It is used as stretching over furnishing fabric for shaping purposes.

Velvet curtain – Tableau curtain from inside of the scene Wikipedia Image by Sémhur

Crushed velvet is produced by manipulating the fabric whilst it is wet. The manipulations include twisting, crushing, brushing, creasing and embossing. Creases and folds in the fabric can flatten the pile or make it lumpy. Devore velvet is a fabric treated with a caustic solution as a pattern, to dissolve the piles in select sections. Embossed velvet is created by heat treatment with a patterned roller. Panne velvet is a result of treatment that forces piles to lie in particular direction.

Devore velvet -burn-out sections on velvet Wikipedia Image by Libby norman

Velvet fabrics due to the one-directional weave and piles show a characteristic nap. The nap affects the colour perception from length and width sides. Due to the nap, the fabric feels smoother in one direction than the other. It is very necessary to align or orient the nap consistently for all uses.

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Velvet, a piled fabric consumes lots of silk, and so is very costly. It is a light density and fragile material. Velvet is a method of fabric formation, and so can be used with many other fibres, such as cotton, rayons, acetate, polyesters, etc. Each fiber types or combination provides a different quality of velvet fabric. But it is the surface-feel that makes the fabric soft, smooth, elegant, cool to the skin and drape-able.

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Silk velvet was a highly prized fabric, identified with wealth, power and prestige. Synthetic velvets made from rayon and acetate are cheaper but heavier and do not drape well. All types of velvets can be dyed with saturated deep colours, due to its unique fibrous surface.

Jewel box lining

Velvets are used in everything dresses, gowns, horse carriages, furniture, clothes, jackets, handbags, scarves, skirts and blouses, drape and wall coverings. Mughal used it for making Shamiana (tents) for parties. Velvets have been used stage curtains. Velvet fabrics are opaque, and due this reasons are used as background for exhibit of art-pieces shadowboxes, jewellery boxes, photo boxes and lining the coffins.

Indian_mojari,_19th_century,_red_velvet_with_gold_embroidery_and_sequins_-_Bata_Shoe_Museum_-_DSC00132

Diwan i Khas Red Fort Delhi Shamianas

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GOBELINS

Post 377 – by Gautam Shah

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The name Gobelin is synonymous with French tapestries. Gobelin was the name of a family of dyers of 15th C., who in all probability came from Reims, established themselves, in Faubourg Saint Marcel, on banks of Bièvre, Paris. The original entrepreneur brothers Jean and Philibert Gobelin (firm Jehan 1476) had a unique formulation for scarlet colour dyestuff. The owners expended outrageous amounts of money, so common people called the unit, as la folie Gobelin (madness of Gobelin). From a dye workshop they graduated to tapestry manufacturing.

The bed in the chambre de Louis XIV, Palace of Versailles

In 1601 Henry IV of France rented the tapestry factory and brought in Flemish weavers (Marc de Comans and François de la Planche, and from 1629 their sons Charles de Comans and Raphaël de la Planche) to produce tapestries. The workshop was split into two when the Flemish weavers separated around 1650. Flemish tapestries from of this early period are called pre-gobelins. In 1662 Louis XIV started looking after the tapestry and upholstery production for furnishing the royal palaces, until 1694.

Battle of Zama, Gobelin tapestry after Jules Romain, manufactured for Louis XIV in 1688-1690. Louvre Museum.

The third or fourth generations of Gobelins became very rich, and deserted the trade and started buying the titles of nobility. For example Balthasar, became treasurer general of artillery, treasurer extraordinary of war, councillor secretary of the king, chancellor of the exchequer, councillor of state and president of the chamber of accounts, and in 1601 received lands and lordship of Brie-Comte-Robert from Henry IV.

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In 1662 the original Goblin estate and adjoining space were taken over on the behalf of Louis XIV. Charles Le Brun, who was a royal painter, also served as chief designer and manager, here, from 1663-1690. This was a large factory setup for upholstery and tapestry design and production besides various types of furniture. This setup suffered a lot due to Louis XIV’s financial problems. During the 1600s and 1700s, the Goblin factory products were sought after by nobility in whole of Europe.

Gobelin Factory

The Beauvais tapestry manufacture was the second in importance, after the Gobelins tapestry, of French tapestry workshops that were established under the general direction of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the finance minister of Louis XIV. Whereas the royal Gobelins manufacture executed tapestries for the royal residences and for ambassadorial gifts, the manufacture at Beauvais always remained a private enterprise. Beauvais specialized in low-warp tapestry weaving, though the letters patent of 1664, authorizing the company and offering royal protection, left the field open for the production of high-warp tapestry as well. (From Wikipedia).

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During the French Revolution (1789), work at the factory was suspended, but was reopened by Napoleon. Since 1826 it has manufactured carpets and tapestries.

Gobelin Manufactory

The Manufacture des Gobelins, also known as ‘Royal factory’ is located in Paris, France, at 42 avenue des Gobelins, near the Les Gobelins Metro station. It is now run by the French Ministry of Culture. It now produces limited amounts of tapestries for the decoration of French governmental institutions. The estate also has Le Brun’s residence and workshop and foundries that formed the bronze statues in the park of Versailles.

Gobelin slanted stitch

Goblin tapestries are considered painting by needle stitch. The tapestry was formed on canvas by a fine needle, rather than through weaving. It used to take from three months to one year to form a masterpiece. Gobelin stitch is a slanting stitch used in needlepoint. Gobelin stitch takes its name from its specific texture.

Gobelins product Susannah Accused of Adultery

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FIBRES for Fabrics

FIBRES for Fabrics

Post 368 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 

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A fibre is a flexible linear entity with very small section compared to its length. Fibres are of natural plant or animal origin, or synthetic products. Fibres are used for spinning into yarn, forming threads and ropes. Yarns are used for weaving or knitting into fabrics. Fibres of plant origin, like cotton is pure cellulose and used for production of paper and other cellulosic compounds. Fibres are massed (without any weaving) to form padding materials, filter media, blankets and mattresses. Fibres and their products are also used as reinforcements and as the fillers in formation of composites.

Polyester Texturized Yarn

A fiber is characterized by its length which is as much as 100 times its diameter or width (10 µm -width of cotton fibre). Fibres do not have consistent section along its length. Fibres of natural origin (and synthetic fibres that has been cut) are short, called staples, whereas silk and synthetics are long length fibres, called filaments. To spin fibres into a yarn, the lengths should be minimum 5 mm. A typical yarn could have more than 30 fibres. To spin a yarn fibres must have flexibility, texture, cohesiveness, elasticity, fineness, uniformity, durability, luster and sufficient strength for spin-twisting. A variable cross section gives (longitudinal structural elements -fibrils) textural effect to the fabric. Fibres that cannot be split longitudinally are called elementary, and when several such elementary fibres join longitudinally to form conjugated fibres. The length of the fiber affects the appearance of the yarn and the quality of the fabric. It is easy to produce a smooth yarn from a filament compared to staples, which require greater amount of the twist. Yarns made from the filament have greater luster, but yarns made from staple fibres have a dull appearance.

Cotton fibre under scanner

The quality of a fabric is largely related to the physical characteristics of the fiber such as:

Colour: Colour of the natural fibres varies; however darker shades can be lightened by bleaching and than a uniform colour can be applied.

Luster: Luster is the amount of light reflected by the fiber. It is both a desirable and undesirable property, depending on the type of use-conditions. Man-made fibres generally have a high luster, which can be reduced or de-lustered by incorporating titanium dioxide in the manufacturing process.

Silk from cocoon is a fine filament fibre -several of these spun into yarn – dyed -ready for weaving as hanks

Shape: Shape relates to the shape of the cross section of the fiber. In case of man-made fibres, it is very uniform (unless further processed by ‘texturizing’) over the length, compared to a variable cross section of natural fibres. Cross sectional shape affects the appearance, feel, surface texture, body, covering power and luster. Round sectional fibres have soft, smooth and slippery feel, high luster, poor covering, and close packing. Dog bone shaped and flat section fibres have a harsher, less smooth handle, good covering and high luster (except cotton). Fibres with multiple lobes in cross section have high covering power, silk like feel, high luster and sometimes soft subdued sheen. Hollow fibres are made by dissolving the inner core material and have high bulk but low weight, fluffy. Such fibres are insulative and absorbent.

Hand spun llama yarn

Surface contour: Surface contour of the fiber in length is smooth, rough or uneven. Wool is covered with small scales that make the fiber cling together, cotton has twisted surface, that reflects the light unevenly and imparts a dull appearance. Manufacturing characteristics and irregularities appear on man-made fibres.

Magnified fibers of (a) silk (b) wool (c) cotton

Crimp: Crimp is an undulating physical structure. Wool has a natural three-dimensional crimp. Most man made fibres are either produced with a crimp or texturized. Fabrics produced from crimped fibres have increased bulk, cohesiveness, warmth, false absorption and better resiliency.

Jute

Types of Fibres and Yarns: Fibres are spun into yarn. Yarns are uninterrupted threads of textile fibres that are ready to be turned into fabrics. Natural fibres originating from natural sources are: Plant (cellulosic), animal (protein). Manufactured, synthetic, or man-made fibres originate from chemical sources or could also be from regenerated or recycled sources.

Aramid Fibers

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COTTON

COTTON

Post 330 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 

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Cotton is the most widely used natural fiber, belonging to a cellulosic group. It is obtained as the seed hair of the cotton plant. Cotton is classified into three categories depending on the length of its fibers. Short staple fibers (9-19 mm) are used for filling in mattresses and spinning ropes and threads for floor spreads, etc. Intermediate-staple fibers (20- 32 mm) are used for weaving medium course fabrics like jeans, etc. and utility clothes such as bed sheets. Long staple fibers (more than 32 mm) are used for weaving fine fabrics like Sarees and Dhotis (both Indian wears), Lawn, Cambric, inner garments, knitwear, etc. Length of a cotton fiber is 1000 to 3000 times its diameter. Very short cotton fibers that stick to the seeds are called cotton linters, and these are not spun into yarn for weaving, but used in pressed cotton felt for bedding and upholstery, and in the production of paper and rayon. Cotton linters are treated with Nitric acid to produce ‘Gun Cotton’, used in explosives as raw material and for production of Nitro Cellulose or NC lacquers.

Cotton balls on Plant

Cotton fibers, at microscopic level, are ribbon like flat, and have a natural twist which helps the spinning and makes a strong thread. Cotton fibers have micro hairiness which traps air and moisture providing a warmth and capacity to absorb perspiration. The trapped air and the moisture absorption, together keep the body cool and comfortable. The hairy textures of the fiber are enhanced by brushing or teasing, and thereby increase the texture and capacity to trap air. Too much teasing can make break the fiber and make it weak. Teased fibers make a fabric dull and with poor wear-tear characteristics. Short staple and teased fibers make good mopes and cleaning or wiping clothes. Very Long staple cottons are now grown now as Hybrid varieties. These can be spun to very fine yarn and ultimately very fine quality fabrics. These fibers are also mixed with the rayon and polyesters or co-spun with synthetics filaments. Cotton fibers get easily creased, which can be flattened by ironing, calendering or chemical treatments.

Cotton Traders in Bombay -covered hand deals

Cotton fiber is easy to grow, separate, spin, weave, dye and print. Earliest use of Cotton has been traced to nearly 5000 BC. Cotton was grown in Indus valley area. Cotton cultivation was more common in tropical areas. Cotton grows into balls, which open out and swell when weather turns warm. The cotton balls are de-seeded in press called Gin. The fibers are separated, carded and combed to align them before spinning. Several spun yarns, are often spun again to form threads. The threads are used for sewing, knitting work crochet, rope making and for use as warp (long direction yarn in a woven fabric compared with weft).

Warp yarn beams for weaving

Cotton fibers are covered with a natural wax like substance. The wax gets removed on repeated washing, hot water soaking or with alkali treatment. The natural wax gives some water repellence, an ideal quality for mattress fill-in cottons. The natural wax containing cotton fabric (unwashed or treated) is called a Grey Cotton Textile. The grey fabric is of natural off-white shade whereas the washed or treated fabric is whiter or variously called bleached fabric. The grey fabric is preferred by designers for tapestry or curtains. In the first case due to its moisture and stain resistance, and in the second case due to its capacity to filter the sunlight to warm shade. Bleached or washed cotton fabrics absorb dyes or print colours well.

Carding or separation of Cotton fibers

Yarn spinning

Weaving Loom

Cotton fabrics tend to shrink substantially, when soaked or washed for the first time. This is due to the relaxation of natural curls in the fibers. Fabrics for apparel making, dyeing and printing are pre-washed or adequately shrunk beforehand to stabilize the structure.

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BURNISHING

BURNISHING

Post 288 ⇒   by Gautam Shah  →

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Burnishing is a material surface finishing process. It polishes and hardens a surface, so that the endowed finish lasts longer. Surfaces that depend on the smoothness for reduced friction, and take lots of wear, need to be burnished. A burnishing rubs the rough surface texture and makes it shinier, but it is not intended as a polishing process. Polishing removes all excess (protruding) materials to level out the surface, whereas Burnishing removes minimum surface material and hardens the surface. It is true that a well polished or a smooth surface takes better burnishing.

Burnishing

Burnishing is mainly a Metal surface alteration process. It is used in various versions for Ceramics, Wood, Leather Paper Cement, Textiles and Artwork. Burnishing occurs on a surface, where another surface sliding on it creates a contact stress which locally exceeds the yield strength of the material. It induces plastic deformation of the surface component, hardens the surface by generating compressive stresses.

Bearing Surface -burnished metal face

Burnishing is not always desirable process for all metal items. It affects the behaviour quality of the surface significantly and often unpredictably. A burnished face, visually seems smoother but with repeated sliding marks grooves over the surface in the sliding direction. Heavy burnishing forces separation of top layer causing peeling of it. Burnishing generates heat which is greater than rubbing or polishing. This excess heat deforms thin body parts. A part deformed due to heavy burnishing, takes greater friction, creating a ‘runaway’ situation where the part fails.

Ceramics burnishing are a treatment in which the green mass of the pot (before drying for baking) is polished and compressed. Compressing the mass and allows excess water to come to the surface, increases the density of the mass and provides a glossy surface. Burnishing is also done after coating the raw item with the slip. As part of surface compaction, sometimes patterns are embossed on the surface. Hard smooth surfaces like wood, bone, glass, metal, or ceramics are rubbed on the surface.

Tripod vessel with lid, Maya culture, Mexico or Guatemala, 4th-5th C, hand-built ceramic with incised decoration and burnished slip, Honolulu Museum of Art

Wood Burnishing is done by rubbing hard grained wood piece along the surface of the wood. Burnishing generates heat, to dry out the surface, melt and fuse the resinous substances or additive substances such as oils, wax etc. Burnished surfaces retain the natural feel (grain and colour) of the wood, and is more natural looking then any coating treatment. Lacquer coated woods are burnished with wool fabrics to gain a natural sheen. Sometimes rubbing compounds that have very fine abrasive grains, wax, oils, lubricants like silicone oil and colouring dyes are used.

Leather Burnishing is used for top and under surfaces as well as edges of leather products. Hard wood pieces are rubbed over leather with or without rubbing materials like oil or wax to achieve a compressed mass and glossy face. The heat also facilitates penetration of rubbing material. The process is also conducted at leather sheet and product formation level. At a leather sheet level-heated roller with pattern compresses the leather. A process, reverse of burnishing is done to produce suede surfaces.

Leather edge finishing

Paper Burnishing is a post paper forming process. It is done to compact the grain-mass and provide sheen, by heavy calendering. Calendering is accompanied by bodying with starch, minerals or resins. It is done to emboss textures or patterns. Photographic mount-boards have such ingrained textures.

Plaster Trowelling -burnishing

Cement Burnishing is done to plasters and cast concrete surfaces. Cement plasters are re-trowelled after the initial setting of the cement. Trowels of wood or metal sheets are rubbed to compress the mass, bring the excess water to the surface and polish it. In case of Tri-mix concrete floors, post setting vibration compacts the surface bringing out the excess water, which is than suctioned out.

Tri-mix concrete -burnishing process

Textile Burnishing is a fabric finishing and texturizing process. Fabrics are hot pressed and passed through rollers. Sized and chemical treated fabrics get a sheen and smoother surface. Fabrics are singed during the process to burn standing or loose fibres and to compact the mass. Shrinking also reduces the mass.

Art-Work Burnishing involves applying colours and than rubbing them to level the surface. The technique was used for Encaustic or wax colour painting. Wax colours were rubbed and polished to achieve a saturated effect. Tempera paintings were also treated or touched with same techniques. Modern day application uses wax crayons or pencils to fill in colours, which are then rubbed with smooth glass or stone. The surface gets warm to melt and fuse the colours.

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ANCIENT TAPESTRY MAKING

Post 234 – by Gautam Shah

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Pazyryk-Carpet

Historically any hand or machine-woven heavy material, and used to cover furniture, walls, or floors or for the decoration of clothing, has been called tapestry in popular usage. The earliest tapestries were functional coarse fabrics, made from coarse spun fibres. Tapestries were woven as small units, and joined to form a larger unit. Tapestries were precious items, and used till its smallest piece survived. Tapestries were heavy fabrics so residual pieces formed door and window cover, apparel, children’s quilt, home slipper bottoms, etc.

640px-Weavers,_Tomb_of_Khnumhotep_MET_DT204509

Tapestry is weft-faced weaving wherein the warp threads are hidden by discontinuous heavy weft yarns. The discontinuity and varieties of weft created patterns and textures, and later pictorial images. The warps in a tapestry appear as parallel ridges coarseness of yarns. Tapestry is unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads are visible. Tapestry weaving flourished along with wearable textiles. Tapestries (at least, earlier ones), however, due to their simple weaving technique had identical pattern and texture on both faces making them reversible fabrics.

Icelandic warp weighted loom

Tapestries were made since prehistoric times in all cultures wherever textiles were woven. Egyptians and Incas buried their dead in tapestry pieces. Egyptians were earliest known or established (3000BC) users of tapestries. Tapestry weaving, was well-known in Peru by the 6th century. China had silk tapestries in the Tang dynasty (AD 618–907).

Fragment of the Sampul tapestry is a Hellenistic wool wall-hanging dating from 3rd -2nd C BC found in Sampul, Tarim Basin, China

Tapestry weaving continued to flourish in Asia. Fragments of wool tapestries from 4th C BC. have been found in graves in Ukraine. The ornamental motifs of these fragments are of widely diffused Hellenistic style that was especially prevalent in Syrian art at the time.

Sampul Tapestry fragment showing Probable Greek soldier, woollen 2nd C-3rd C AD, Sampul, Urumqi Xinjiang Museum

Earliest attested Mycenaean Greek form of the word is ta-pe-ja English usage of word Tapestry occurs in 1467. The word derives from old French tapisserie > from tapisser (to cover with heavy fabric or to carpet) > from tapis (heavy fabric) > via Latin tapes. Technical definition of Tapestry has been exacted during the 18th and 19th C., meaning only heavy, reversible, patterned or figured handwoven fabrics for hanging or covering. By this period Tapestry was established as a luxury art afforded only by the wealthy.

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There are literary mentions of tapestry making in ancient Greece and Rome. In the Odyssey, Homer (8th BC) describes Penelope working on a tapestry that was unraveled each night as she waited for Odysseus. The Roman poet Ovid (43-17 BC) in the Metamorphoses describes tapestry looms used by Minerva and Arachne in their mythological weaving contest. The Trojan War tapestry referred to by Homer in Book III of the Iliad, where ‘Iris disguises herself as Laodice and finds Helen working at a great web of purple linen, on which she was embroidering the battles between Trojans and Achaeans, that Ares had made them fight for her sake’.

Fabric weaving on weighted loom

Allusions in early Greek poetry and paintings on Greek vases show that tapestry weaving was an important household industry.

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Tapestry with a hunting scene, Coptic Egypt.

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