Labour of Love: The Trojan War

By Stuart Frost

Conservation work on a magnificent tapestry continues in the Textile Conservation Studio. The tapestry is approximately 4.20 metres high, just over 7 metres long and depicts a scene from the Trojan War. The tapestry is part of one of the most important sets still surviving from the latter part of the fifteenth century.

War of Troy Tapestry, 1475-1490, Museum no. 6-1887The Trojan War tapestries were made in Tournai (now in Belgium) between 1460 and 1490. Several sets were woven for some of the most powerful and wealthiest men in Europe including King Charles VIII of France, Charles the Bold of Burgundy and King Henry VII of England. The complete set consisted of eleven hangings. The tapestry in the Conservation Studio is the ninth in the series and is thought to have come from the first set. Click on on the images for a better view of the scenes depicted on it and the conservation work.

At some point in its history the V&A’s tapestry was cut into five separate parts. Not surprisingly for a textile that is over five hundred years old it has required conservation work from time to time.  The tapestry is currently undergoing a programme of treatment so that it will look at its best when it goes on display to the public in November 2009.Troy Tapestry

The tapestry has already been wet cleaned in Belgium using a special installation that uses water vapour and suction to ensure that the textile fibres are supported at all times and are not wet for too long. You’ll find more information about this stage of the work on the Conservation Department’s web-pages – follow the link below.

It is has been estimated that in total the work on the tapestry will take up to 3,500 hours. Expressed in different terms that’s one conservator working on the tapestry for two years!  At the moment the conservator in question is Albertina. She very kindly provided me with an update on progress. As you can see from the picture I’ve included here the cleaned tapestry is now being conserved on a frame in the Textile Conservation Studio. It is in the process of been given a complete support of fine linen scrim. Larger areas where loss is more pronounced are being supported with heavier linen.Troy Tapestry

I’ll add further updates about progress on work on this tapestry, and on other objects, in due course.  If you have any questions please feel free to post them below and I’ll do my best to answer them for you.  If I don’t know the answer myself, I’m sure that one of my colleagues will.

Click on the link that follows to view a short-film about conservation work on the War of Troy Tapestry

3 thoughts on “Labour of Love: The Trojan War

Caroline Brooke:

Could you please tell me if there was a set of the Trojan war tapestries in Italy by c.1490s. I’m particularly interested in tapestries in northern Italy and the Veneto,

Many thanks – great web page,

Caroline Brooke


Dear Caroline,

Thanks for your question. I hope to get back to you with an answer in a day or two.

Best wishes,


Sharon MacFarlane:

The video was fascinating. What happens to the painted linen repairs? Do they remain in situ during cleaning or do they have to be treated differently? Do you leave in place some of the other old repairs, or remove them and repair all the areas again?

I look forward to seeing them next year.

Sharon MacFarlane

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