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French and Belgian Verdure Tapestries and Your Home

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The origins of tapestry are somewhat sketchy and many details remain unknown. French tapestries were made in and around Paris until the 100 Years War (1337 – 1453), causing artisans to leave for Belgium (then Flanders). By the 1500s, the most common tapestry subject was the hunting scene (early “man-cave” decor).

The tapestries, which remain intact from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, tell us plants and landscapes were a favorite topic for them. Thus, the popular trend went from violent hunting scenes to more eye-pleasing landscapes. They called them “verdure” tapestries, from the French word “vert,” meaning green. Dyes for the wool threads were created from plant extracts. Additionally, (and this is pretty amazing) they used gold thread, giving original tapestries a very ornate feel. The other astonishing fact is how laborious these decorative masterpieces were. One weaver took up to 12 weeks to weave one square foot.

Verdure tapestries have the characteristics of using predominately green threads, a shift from earlier Gothic tapestries which used primarily red and gold tones. The tapestry topics are extremely complex and elaborate, often depicting intricate details or various scenes in one tapestry.

Tapestry production was helped along by Louis the XIV as he subsidized it around 1660 by creating the “Les Gobelins” factory. (Is it not amazing how the arts still need to be subsidized by the government, even today?) There, about 1000 weavers and artists worked tirelessly to crank out all-over-patterns of plants and floral designs. By the 16th century, France excelled in verdure tapestries, primarily in the Aubusson and Lille towns. If you read more about tapestries, you will hear the term an “Aubusson” tapestry because this town created the most decorative styles.

Verdure tapestries are a great addition to living rooms and dens. They add a “country” and relaxed feel, as well as, a touch of glamour. Today, you can purchase verdure-type tapestries in nearly any size. Choose from wall hangings, picture or pillow-sized tapestries to strategically place in your home. The only drawback may be the “dark” nature of verdure tapestries. So, if you have a dimly lit room, you may want to consider the location of your tapestry. Another option may an upholstered in a verdure-style fabric. A small piece like this can add flavor and a difference in texture to your design style.

A last resort may be to make your own verdure tapestry. For the hard-core DIY person, you can design the basic topic and copy a common verdure pattern for the border. In doing this, you select the color threads and choose the level of green tones to match your current color scheme. It is not expensive to get started making your own tapestries. Whether you purchase a verdure tapestry or not, you can incorporate the idea of verdure into your home with smaller pieces or colors that simulate the country and pastoral feel.

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