I'm not a conservator so my knowledge of tapestry restoration and conservation is limited. Whilst at the Metropolitan Museum of Art I really enjoyed the opportunity to look in detail at the restoration and repair work which had been carried out. Not surprisingly, I don't encounter much of this in 20th Century works.
|Honor Making a Chaplet of Roses, c.1410-1420, South Netherlandish|
In Honor Making A Chaplet of Roses the lower edge of the tapestry has deteriorated and we can see where a new layer of tapestry has been added. The same has happened along the right side. A particularly interesting piece of replacement tapestry runs horizontally and cuts through the ankle of one of the figures.
|Joshua and David (from the Nine Heroes Tapestries), c.1400, South Netherlandish|
|Hector of Troy (from the Nine Heroes Tapestries), c.1400, South Netherlandish|
Other tapestries, such as those from the Nine Heroes series, were in such fragmentary state that they had to be reconstructed using a supportive backing cloth. You can see in the Joshua and David work that the gaps in the tapestries have been left blank, rather than filled with new weaving.
These restoration of these tapestries can teach us many things. Their fragile state illustrates the way that textiles can deteriorate, but also how hangings were cut as and when required, especially when moved from one room to another. But they also show a level of resilience, having survived over 600 years of turbulent history. They are also a testament to the skill of conservators both past and present.