…but a good week for art and history

bayeux

So, was it a hoax? But I do like the conclusion to this observation from Micah Mattix‘s Prufrock:

You may recall that last week French president Emmanuel Macron agreed to loan the Bayeux Tapestry to Britain. (The work depicts the Battle of Hastings and other events.) Like many young technocrats eager to appear nice, he may have promised too much, too quickly. Curators said that in order to move the 224-foot and extremely fragile embroidery “a host of major technical and conservation issues” would have to be overcome: “Curator Pierre Bouet, who cares for the tapestry at the museum, said he thought ‘it was a hoax’ when he first heard of the plan.” Still, a week that finds heads of state and journalists discussing history and art is a good one.

That goodness continues this week, with Emily A. Winkler providing a history of the embroidery and a brief discussion of its varying interpretations: “It was probably commissioned by Odo of Bayeux – famous as William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Earl of Kent and Bishop of Bayeux – and made in Canterbury by English seamstresses. The Bayeux Tapestry is not, in fact, a tapestry (a woven textile) but an embroidery made of linen and wool yarn. Some art historians have campaigned to rename it the ‘Canterbury Embroidery’, to acknowledge its probable place of production. Both within and beyond the scholarly world, the Bayeux Tapestry has attracted varying interpretations. Taking sides – or trying to determine the degree of Englishness or Normanness it conveys – has been difficult to resist. The tapestry was long thought to be a piece of Norman propaganda, celebrating a Norman achievement. Wolfgang Grape’s The Bayeux Tapestry (trans. David Britt, 1994) proclaimed the tapestry to be a Monument to a Norman triumph. On the other hand, more recent work has stressed its English production, revealing the subtle English sentiments in the tapestry’s artwork. The historian Stephen D. White has recently cautioned against reading it as an English or Norman story, showing how the animal fables visible in the borders may instead offer a commentary on the dangers of conflict and the futility of pursuing power.”

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