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36ème Congrès du CIHA - Lyon 2024

Parrainé par le Ministère de la Culture,
le Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche,
le Ministère de l'Europe et des Affaires étrangères

Tapestries: Materiality, Meaning and Intermediality in a Longue Durée Perspective

Merit Laine 1, Martin Olin 2, Elodie Pradier 3
Uppsala University - Uppsala (Sweden), 2Nationalmuseum - Stockholm (Sweden), 3Université Bordeaux-Montaigne (France)

Sujet en anglais / Topic in english

There is perhaps only one historic occasion that is referred to through the materiality that defined it: The meeting of the kings François I of France and Henry VIII of England at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520. Among the textiles then displayed were tapestries: images glowing with colour and woven with the finest wool, silk, and gold, as described by contemporaries. This was not a unique instance: beautiful and costly tapestries have served to define persons, events, and spaces in many parts of the world for a very long period of time. The materials and the highly skilled and complex production processes of fine tapestries resulted in an instantly recognizable materiality that constituted the essence of the meaning of these objects, beyond any iconographic content of their design. Materiality thus constituted a large part of their agency. A set of tapestries could envelop and transform the space in which it was displayed, which could be anywhere. Moving across borders and continents, these textiles became part of transnational material cultures that still survive, in secular as well as religious, public as well as private spaces. Often treasured for generations, tapestries continued to accumulate unique meanings and increase their agency throughout their history. Even new tapestries carried the inherited meaning of their materiality.

From Antiquity onwards, tapestries have also been the subject of intermedial representations and allusions in an increasing range of textual and pictorial media and genres, up to the film sets and advertisements of the present day. Such representations and allusions often convey material characteristics, thereby referencing the impact of the materiality of actual tapestries. While materials, production, and specific workshops have long been important subjects of research, tapestry materiality as such has not been the primary focus of systematic study. The papers of this panel may present results, or explore questions, methods, and theoretical frameworks for further, interdisciplinary research. The focus is tapestries produced for, displayed in, and/or referencing courtly and other elite contexts. A longue durée perspective is suggested by surviving objects and references from Antiquity onwards, the long continuities of production and display practices, and the relevance of tapestries to-day. In a wider perspective, it is hoped that this approach will contribute to our understanding of how the meanings and agency of materiality survive and are modified, across time and space.