AskDefine | Define tapestry

Dictionary Definition



1 something that is felt to resemble a tapestry in its complexity; "the tapestry of European history"
2 a heavy textile with a woven design; used for curtains and upholstery [syn: tapis]
3 a wall hanging of heavy handwoven fabric with pictorial designs [syn: arras]

User Contributed Dictionary



  • ˈtæpɨstɹij


  1. a heavy woven cloth, often with decorative pictorial designs, normally hung on walls
  2. In the context of "by extension": anything with variegated or complex details


transitive intransitive
  1. To decorate with tapestry, or as if with a tapestry.

Extensive Definition

''This article is about the textile art. For other uses see Tapestry (disambiguation).
Tapestry is a form of textile art. It is woven by hand on a vertical loom. It is weft-faced weaving, in which all the warp threads are hidden in the completed work, unlike cloth weaving where both the warp and the weft threads may be visible. In this way, a colourful pattern or image is created. Most weavers use a naturally based warp thread such as linen or cotton. The weft threads are usually wool or cotton, but may include silk, gold, silver, or other alternatives.
Both craftsmen and artists have produced tapestries. The 'blueprints' on cardboard (also known as 'tapestry cartoons') were made by artists of repute, while the tapestries themselves were produced by craftsmen.


The success of decorative tapestry can be partially explained by its portability. Kings and noblemen could roll up and transport tapestries from one residence to another. In churches, they could be displayed on special occasions. Tapestries were also draped on the walls of castles for insulation during winter, as well as for decorative display.
In the Middle Ages and renaissance, a rich tapestry panel woven with symbolic emblems, mottoes, or coats of arms called a baldachin, canopy of state or cloth of state was hung behind and over a throne as a symbol of authority. The seat under such a canopy of state would normally be raised on a dais.
The iconography of most Western tapestries goes back to written sources, the Bible and Ovid's Metamorphoses being two popular choices. Apart from the religious and mythological images, hunting scenes are the subject of many tapestries produced for indoor decoration.

Historical development

Tapestries have been used since at least Hellenistic times. Samples of Greek tapestry have been found preserved in the desert of Tarim Basin dating from the 3rd century BC.
Tapestry reached a new stage in Europe in the early fourteenth century AD. The first wave of production originated in Germany and Switzerland. Over time, the craft expanded to France and the Netherlands.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, Arras, France was a thriving textile town. The industry specialised in fine wool tapestries which were sold to decorate palaces and castles all over Europe. Few of these tapestries survived the French Revolution as hundreds were burnt to recover the gold thread that was often woven into them. Arras is still used to refer to a rich tapestry no matter where it was woven.
By the 16th century, Flanders had become the centre of European tapestry production. In the 17th century Flemish tapestries were arguably the most important productions, with many specimens of this era still extant, demonstrating the intricate detail of pattern and colour.
In the 19th century, William Morris resurrected the art of tapestry-making in the medieval style at Merton Abbey. Morris and Company made successful series of tapestries for home and ecclesiatical uses, with figures based on cartoons by Edward Burne-Jones.
Tapestries are still made at the factory of Gobelins and a few other old European workshops, which also repair and restore old tapestries. The craft is also currently practiced by hobbyist weavers.
The term Tapestry is also used to describe fabric made on jacquard looms. Tapestry upholstery fabrics and reproductions of the famous tapestries of the Middle Ages are a common products of jacquard looms. Kilims and Navajo Rugs are also types of tapestry work.

Famous tapestries


"True" tapestry

Sampul tapestry, woollen wall hanging, 3rd-2nd century BC, Sampul, Urumqi Xinjiang Museum. Flemish mille-fleur tapestry in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Other forms of needlework called "tapestry"



  • Campbell, Thomas P. Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty: Tapestries at the Tudor Court, Yale University Press, 2007, ISBN 9780300122343
  • Russell, Carol K. Tapestry Handbook. The Next Generation, Schiffer Publ. Ltd.,Atglen,PA. 2007, ISBN:978-0-7643-2756-8

External links

tapestry in Czech: Tapiserie
tapestry in German: Bildwirkerei
tapestry in Spanish: Tapiz
tapestry in French: Tapisserie
tapestry in Hebrew: גובלן
tapestry in Croatian: Tapiserija
tapestry in Italian: Arazzo
tapestry in Dutch: Wandtapijt
tapestry in Japanese: タペストリー
tapestry in Polish: Gobelin
tapestry in Russian: Гобелен
tapestry in Finnish: Gobeliini
tapestry in Swedish: Gobeläng
tapestry in Thai: พรมแขวนผนัง
tapestry in Turkish: Kanaviçe

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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