Tapestry is an ancient technique of weaving. The pattern is woven in blocks of coloured weft thread which are then beaten down very tightly on the warp threads, producing a picture or pattern. The V&A's collection includes four 15th-century examples, known as The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries, and Raphael's cartoons of tapestries for the Sistine Chapel.
The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries
These four 15th-century tapestries with hunting scenes came to the V&A from the estate of The Dukes of Devonshire. They probably belonged to the celebrated Countess of Shrewsbury, known as 'Bess of Hardwick', and were probably from Hardwick Hall, one of her houses in Derbyshire
The Boar and Bear Hunt Tapestry
This tapestry is one of a group of four, known as the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries, made in the southern Netherlands in around 1425–30. All four tapestries depict hunting scenes; the other three are the Swan and Otter Hunt, the Deer Hunt, and Falconry. The tapestries are known to have been at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire in 1601, as they appear in an inventory compiled in that year for the Countess of Shrewsbury, owner of the Hall.
The War of Troy Tapestry
The War of Troy tapestry is part of one of the most important sets of tapestry still surviving from the latter part of the 15th century. The Trojan War tapestries were made in Tournai between 1460 and 1490 and are the only set of Medieval tapestries for which the original designs still exist.
Cosimo I de' Medici: Renaissance Patron
Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519–74) was Duke of Florence between 1537 and his death. The de’ Medicis were renowned for their patronage of the arts, and Cosimo I continued this tradition, supporting artists such as the painter, architect and biographer, Giorgio Vasari. You can listen to a description of a tapestry designed by Vasari for Cosimo I and listen to a madrigal composed by Francesco Corteccia and dedicated by him to Cosimo.
Video: A Tale of Two Raphaels
When the Pope visited Britain in 2010, four of Raphael’s tapestries for the Sistine Chapel were reunited with the ‘cartoon’s used to create them for the first time in 495 years. In this special film, Dr Mark Evans, Senior Curator of Paintings, visits the V&A and Windsor Castle to reveal how Raphael made the cartoons which were used to make tapestries by specialist weavers in Brussels and how they come to be at the V&A.
The Raphael Cartoons
The Raphael Cartoons were commissioned by Pope Leo X in 1515 and are among the greatest treasures of the High Renaissance. Painted by Raphael (1483-1520) and his assistants, they are full-scale designs for tapestries that were made to cover the lower walls of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. The tapestries depict the Acts of St Peter and St Paul, the founders of the early Christian Church.