Conservation work can lead us to discover all sorts of previously unseen information. Our conservators made a discovery on the 6m x 9m Gideon Tapestry from the Long Gallery at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire after it had been cleaned.
While framing up the mainfield an exciting find was made; the discovery of a weaving mark depicting a stepped cross on the right hand galloon. As the image below shows it is quite hard to see due to fading, and before washing it was invisible. The reverse side, however, clearly shows the mark.
Prior to this discovery the only other marks that had been found on the set (on Gideon tapestries c and j) were of a six pointed star which in conjunction with stylistic details indicated the set were woven at Oudenaarde.
Correspondence between ourselves and tapestry historian Helen Wyld, and between herself and tapestry expert Guy Delmarcel, have revealed some very interesting information about the Gideon set and the mark has been identified as from the town of Grammont.
‘The presence of this new mark, and the difference in the weaving of the border, suggest that this tapestry was woven in a different workshop to the others. It was fairly common in the 16th cent for a large commission to be shared between different weavers, often under the direction of a single entrepreneur/agent; but I don’t know if we have any direct evidence for it outside Brussels, so this is potentially quite significant.’ – (email from Helen Wyld)
‘This mark on the Hardwick Gideon is indeed considered as from Grammont, and may ve ccepted (sic) as such, then it is identical to the city’s coat of arms. The genuine town’s name is in fact, in Flemish,
‘Geraardsbergen’ and ‘bergen’ refers to a mountain or hill, and there the main church is on top of the hill. But the location in the side border is rather uncommon, we should expect it in the lower horizontal border.
I do not know of other examples that a Brussels set should have been complemented by a piece in Geraardsbergen , but the merchant-weavers were very mobile and by lack of time or available looms, cartoons may have been transmitted to another place.’
‘The two towns are only separated by 24 kilometer, some16 miles… The Geraarsbergen mark is very rare, but these pieces are all related to Oudenaarde or Enghien models’– (emails from Guy Delmarcel)
Previous weaving and lining differences that we noted while framing the lower border seem to corroborate the fact that this tapestry was woven elsewhere and we are keeping our eyes peeled for any further differences we may find. Also we have yet to closely examine the other two large tapestries that remain to be conserved (tapestries b and g) and these may throw up some more clues.
In the light of these discussions we decided to take another set of thread samples for dye analysis (this has already been done for an earlier tapestry in the set) to see if further research may shed light on the weaving process.