Critical Method of the History of Tapestry: Rules, Circulation of Models, Transfers of Know-How. France – 14th-21st Centuries
This project has been framed by the theme « Creations: Processes, Participants, Aims, Contexts », 2010 edition, of the Human and Social Science programme of the National Research Agency (ANR). It has a 48 month duration (December 2010 – December 2014). It is also supported by the Region Aquitaine (January 2012 – December 2014) This program aims at giving tapestry-making its place within the history of artistic creation. It is based on a dialectical approach of this art, in its relation to the theory of ornament in arts and architecture, its close relationship to painting and in its dependence on the organization and to the functioning of antique crafts. In addition, it aims to take a critical look at the methods of investigation and analysis used to this day in this field of art history. If we are to reconsider the process of creation in the art of tapestry today we must rethink its history from three renewed conceptions:
1. Tapestry as ornament. This first thematic axis concerns the analysis of the placement of objects, the function of the medium in structuring space and as an element contributing to the dissemination of a style. How can tapestry, when integrated into a space, modify its character? (up to today’s practices of contemporary tapestry installation)? What place of tapestry is given by architects, both of yesterday and today (Corbusier, Portzamparc)? How was the art of tapestry observed or regarded? How does the art of tapestry adapt itself to styles and how does it participate to their dissemination? As tapestry is seen as a duplicate of painting, it is also advisable to think of the stakes of these weaved reproductions, of the transmission of an aesthetic at a specific moment and its reception.
2. Tapestry art as expression of a collective art. Focusing on the analysis of the application of theory in practice of an artistic technique, this second thematic axis aims at analyzing the successive phases of the process, from the verbal into the painted and (from the painted) into the weaved. It investigates questions of inter-textuality, scale, transposition, and the translation from one medium into another.
3. Tapestry art as art and craft. This last thematic axis aims at understanding the way in which the professions which come under the term of tapestry-maker were organised and functioned by using notions of the migration of craftsmen as well as transfer of know-how and marks. The latter is connected to the former as far as the work of the tapestry-maker is at the end of the creative process and his work constitutes the tangible element of the works. We know that the word used to describe a tapestry-maker in French (tapissier) covers at least five or six professions, which can be divided into production and the business related to the various sorts of tapestry. We have only a very limited knowledge of way in which these professions and their networks functioned within the same city (Paris, Beauvais, Aubusson), between these cities and with the nearby countries, although we do know of their existence.
To be successful, the program leans on a double framework: firstly historiographical analysis and secondly the elaboration of a database dedicated to tapestry-makers. Writing about tapestry art means and involves establishing a better understanding of this art by analyzing the way its history has been constituted. It is not only a question of better understanding its process of production and creation, but especially of measuring the impact of historical, functional or symbolic notions in the historiography of tapestry. The constitution of a database, whilst it is not an end in itself, is fundamental, because the collected data and the exploration of their connections will serve as essential support on second thought. The purpose is to give to the scientific community, to museum curators, to the art market and to designers and creative artists a fresh knowledge about this form of artistic expression, to clearly outline the specificity of the art of tapestry, in France mainly, in the form of a set of analyses (essays, critical editions, fundamental studies) and in sources (catalogues, directories, databases, reconstructions of indoor decorations), reflecting the variety of the scientific approaches. Academic publication will be the first vehicle for the scientific valorization of results obtained.
Five works will detail the specific features of tapestry art, mainly in France. – Writing the History of the Art of Tapestry, 19th-20th Centuries. – Woven Painting. Essay on the Principles of Painting and their Application in the Gobelin Tapestries, 18th-21st Centuries. – The History of Queen Artemis: poems, drawings and tapestries. Critical Edition. – Directory of Tapestry-makers in France, commercial catalogues, production and marks (14th-21st centuries) – Annotated Catalogue of Tapestries and Tapestry Designs made in Paris in the 16th Century.