About Tapestry Reproductions and Tapestry Posters Fabulous Beasts tapestry

Let's talk a little bit about the whole tapestry issue.

If you really like medieval style decor, the thought of the great medieval tapestries, which covered floor-to-ceiling and for yards and yards along the walls, will of course spring to mind.  That's one option.  Another is panels of good fabric, (image from Barley Hall reconstruction) which may well have been more common for the well-to-do, but not filthy rich.

What is out there?

Of course, the most obvious ones are the "La Dame à la Licorne/Mon Seul Desir" series of unicorn tapestries, with red backgrounds, which reside at the Cluny in France, and the "Hunt of the Unicorn" series, with green/blue backgrounds, which reside at the Cloisters in New York City, USA.

But there are many other tapestries still in existance from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, and you can, with a little looking, find good quality posters of them, and sometimes fabric reproductions.  One of my favorite series is the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries at the V&A in London, England.  Sadly, there aren't a lot of reproductions of this series, although like the other famous series, there are art books with lots of pictures and long foldouts.

Don't discount the medieval-style "William Morris" designs, either.  Some of those pull influences from the Middle Ages and would look great in a home medieval setting.

Some tapestry reproductions are of images which were originally tapestries.  Some are made into tapestries from frescos (paintings) or book illuminations.

There are also a great many tapestries sold as "medieval" which are of 21st-century sources.  Covers from sword & sorcery novels, photos of Bavarian castles, scenes of King Arthur doing this or that.  There are also lengths of upholstery fabric with medievaloid images which are mis-sold as "tapestries."  All of this is why it's a good idea to educate yourself before dropping money on something like this.

What do you want?

Once you get familiar with the tapestries that exist, you'll need to make a decision: Are you really interested in a textile to hang on your wall, or is a photograph of a tapestry ok?  In most cases, I really encourage you to go with some variation of a photograph (poster, art print, etc.)  The reason is that you'll get a lot more detail from a photo, and detail-density per money spent is a lot higher.

The reason is that a reproduction tapestry is limited to a certain number of threads per inch in the weaving, which corresponds to pixel size in a digital image.  So, unless you get a really large tapestry -- several feet across -- you're going to have a very blocky image compared to the photo.

Where do you get it, and how much will you pay?

Posters of tapestries can be found at museum gift shops and places like AllPosters.com, under "medieval" or similar search terms.  Posters will be fairly moderately priced -- a 28x24" print of one of the Mon Seul Desir ones is currently $29.

Tapestry reproductions can be found from museum gift shops, and Design Toscano, or European Wall Tapestries. (Note: just examples.  I haven't bought tapestries from any of these merchants.)  The same scene from Mon Seul Desir at roughly the same size, in cotton, as the poster above, is selling for $142 today.  A 3x4' version is around $250.  Less common images will cost more.  Sometimes much more.  Versions in wool instead of cotton will cost more also (but the colors will be more intense.) Cushion cover tapestry panels, though, are only around $20, and make a great addition to your sofa or bed.  Or you could applique them onto a denim jacket!  Modern tapestry reproductions are not made by the same method that the artisans of the middle ages used.

A third possibility is having a professional print shop print your image of a tapestry onto canvas.

Some examples

I have a tapestry.  I got it from eBay, with a lot of patience and a sniping service.  I think I waited for the right thing to come along for six months or so.  If you want to go this route, sign up for search results to be emailed to you.  I ran two different searches, one in Home & Garden and one in Antiques.  I saw a lot of things you could get cheaper from one of the sources mentioned above, and many things trumped up which were not worth even the starting price.  As with anything else on eBay, or other auction situtations, you need to know your subject if you want a good deal.

Here are the three that came across my computer which I thought were worth considering.

Tapestry from Tres Riches Heurs
This tapestry sold on eBay for about $200.  The original is from the Tres Riches Heures manuscript, which means the original images were about the size of a standard sheet of paper.  There are two of them in the tapestry; the "May" one has been flipped (it's the one on the left here) so that it looks like it's part of the hunting scene on the right.  It's 3 feet by 5 feet.
Tapestry of a garden scene
This is a very medieveal looking garden scene, but I haven't been able to find the source yet.  It sold for about $300.  It's 3 feet by 4 feet.
Fantastic beasts tapestry
This is a mostly-wool tapestry; the original is in Basel, Switzerland; not sure of the date yet, but I'm betting around 1400.  I got it on eBay for $63 plus shipping.  Friends found other sources selling them new for over $1,200.  It's 4 feet x 6.5 feet.

It pays to be patient.

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