Post 377 – by Gautam Shah


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.


In 1662 the original Goblin estate and adjoining space were taken over on 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).


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



Post 234 – by Gautam Shah



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.


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.


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.


Tapestry with a hunting scene, Coptic Egypt.




Post -by Gautam Shah

Fabrics or textiles have been used for many different purposes. Historically handwoven textiles have been used for personal attire and as tapestries for wall hanging, curtains, carpets, furnishings, furniture coverings, etc.

Coptic tapestry

Such furnishing Fabrics are crafted by many different techniques such as weaving, knitting, embroidery, stitching, sewing, crocheting, patch working, seaming, and lace making. Fabrics are adorned with dyes, colours, fabrics, yarns, fibres, threads, coins, metal pieces, glass beads and flats, bones, buttons, laces, leaves, flowers and feathers.


The motifs used in fabric weaving and other craft-work, are rudimentary and very ancient, and may have originated in basket weaving and the related reed-mat plaiting. The original motifs were natural to both materials and techniques. In textiles these motifs have survived in the work of Central Asia, Asia Minor, and the Caucasus, in both, pile-knotted and flat-woven fabrics.

Zili_xalçası  The word tapestry derives from old French tapisserie, (from tapisser) meaning ‘to cover with heavy fabric, to carpet’. Tapis =heavy fabric, via Latin tapes, from earliest attested form of the word of Mycenaean-Greek origin ta-pe-ja.


The term tapestry has also been used to identify any pictorial weaving. Since 18th C, the term tapestry has been narrowed to include only heavy, reversible, patterned or figured handwoven textiles. Early tapestries were colour and textured-based materials. A variety of materials for this purpose were incorporated during weaving or after weaving. Later tapestries were patterned with whole or repeat designs or contained full compositions of scenery, abstract or mythic incidents or episodes.

Family of Henry VIII seating against a wall hung tapestry


Tapestry weaving began to replicate art work of famous painters, through the use of cartoons. Same paintings were reproduced several times, though the border of a cartoon copied design tended to be restyled every time it was commissioned, This satisfied individual patrons’ personal preference for ornamental motifs. Borders were frequently designed by an artist different from the one who conceived the cartoon for the central narrative or principal image.

Raphael, The Death of Ananias (1515) as painting, and the same created on tapestry by using the Cartoon.

Raphael, The Death of Ananias (1515) as painting, and the same created on tapestry by using the Cartoon.

Tapestry is a technique that differs from other forms of weaving in having a weft yarn not carried continuously to the full width of the fabric. The construction of a tapestry weave is such that the wefts are more than the warps, and which are not visible in the finished material. Small length weft yarns of different types, colours and textures are used to produce patterns. The warps in a finished tapestry appear only as almost marked parallel ridges in the texture, or grain of the fabric, according to their coarseness or fineness.

634px-Wall_Hanging_Depicting_the_Death_of_the_Buddha_(Paranirvana)_LACMA_M.81.223By the late 15th century, tapestries had become status symbols among the aristocracies. Tapestries were considered precious possessions. Kings and noblemen carried the rolled up tapestries from one place to another. In the Middle Ages, Henry VIII reportedly had 2,000 tapestries in 17 royal residences. The tapestries formed a lively colourful decoration over drab walls of castles and insulated their chilly stone castles.

European monasteries and convents became centres of tapestry weaving. In churches, the tapestries with topical themes were displayed on special occasions.


In India Vaishnava temples the tapestries are called Pat or Bhitti-Pat (wall -hangings) and form seasonal background for the deity. In Jainism Bhitti-Pat of important religious places are displayed for those who cannot go on pilgrimage. Both of these wall hangings were not woven fabrics but rather embroidered work adorned with glass, precious stones, etc.

Le Corbusier once called tapestries ‘nomadic murals’. ‘The destiny of the tapestry of today emerges: it becomes the mural of the modern age’ Corbusier made at least 27 tapestry drawings, known as cartoons, from 1936 to 1965. Beginning in 1949, Corbusier began collaborating with a colleague, Pierre Baudouin, to translate his paintings and drawings into tapestries at the Pinton workshops in Felletin, France. In 1961 Corbusier also collaborated with the weavers of Firminy, near Lyon, to have 765 square yards of tapestry made for the Palace of Justice (High Court) in Chandigarh, India.

Chandigadh India Corbusier

 Many 20th-century architects and artists, including Picasso, Matisse and Braque, liked having their designs translated into woven wool tapestries, and Miró‘s 35-foot-wide 1974 tapestry hung in the World Trade Centre until its destruction.

WTC tapestry by Miro