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Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Mortlake near Richmond was where the famous Mortlake tapestries were made for Charles I.
Cromwell shut down the factory, and Charles II promised to start their manufacture again, but never got around to it.

"A manufactory of fine tapestry (being its first introduction into England) was established here in the year 1619 by Sir Francis Crane, who bought some premises of Mr. Juxon for that purpose.
"The King patronized the undertaking, and gave 2,000/. towards it as an encouragement. Francis Cleyne, an ingenious artist, coming to England soon afterwards under the patronage of Sir Robert Anstruther, was employed as a designer, and raised the credit of the manufactures to a very high degree.
"The King granted him a pension of 100/. per annum, and made him a free denizen. In the first year of King Charles, Sir Francis Crane, to whom his Majesty owed 6000l. procured a pension of 1,000/. per annum.
"After his death, his brother Sir Richard sold the premises to the King. During the civil war they were seized as the property of the crown. In the Survey taken by order of parliament the Tapestryhouse is described as containing one room 82 ft. in length, and 20 in breadth, with 12 looms; another about half as long with 6 looms; and a great room called the limning-room. This manufactory occupied the site of Queen's-head Court. The old house, on the opposite side of the road, was built by Charles I. for the residence of Francis Cleyne.
"Gibson, the dwarf, who had been page to a lady at Mortlake, was a scholar of Cleyne.
"During the protectorate the Tapestry-house remained in the occupation of John Holliburie, who in the Survey is mentioned as the master workman.

"After the Restoration, Charles II. intended to revive the manufacture, and sent to Verrio to sketch the designs, but his intention was never carried into execution.
"In the Survey above the Tapestry-house is valued at 50/. per annum; the painter's house at 9/."

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Charles II never reopened the Mortlake tapestry factory, but the continued influx of skilled European workers, coupled with Charles' desire to make his reign as artistically glorious as his father's meant that the work moved to Soho and Clerkenwell and later to Hatton Garden.

This entire post is a SPOILER about things that take place after the Diary:

The largest tapestry on display at the Royal Museums Greenwich illustrates the May 1672 battle off the coast of Southwold Bay, Suffolk. It is taken from a series of sketches made by a Dutch artist, Willem Van de Velde the Elder, who took up a position in a small boat in order to bear witness to the carnage.

Surrounding him were hundreds of warships. A Dutch fleet had sailed to engage a combined force of English and French ships, and Van de Velde was there to document the action on behalf of the Dutch.

The engagement became known as the Battle of Solebay. While both sides claimed victory, the outcome remained inconclusive.

The drawings Van de Velde made shaped how the battle was perceived, and eventually Charles II commissioned him to design these tapestries, as Charles and James saw this battle as their own "Armada". I suspect there would have been no tapestries had the English considered the Battle of Solebay as a loss. Van de Velde had to change his perspective on the action to make the designs.

One of these tapestries is now in the collections of Royal Museums Greenwich.
Entitled "The Burning of the Royal James at the Battle of Solebay, 28 May 1672," it depicts the climax of the battle: the destruction of the English flagship Royal James and the death of Vice-Admiral Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich.

Much like the outcome of the battle, the tapestry’s history is ambiguous.

For starters, where were they made? One part of the blog suggests: "The weaving of the Solebay tapestries is now thought to have taken place either at Clerkenwell or later at Hatton Garden in the workshops of Francis Poyntz.

"A skilled weaver, Poyntz was a Yeoman Arrarsworker in the Great Wardrobe, a position that involved producing new royal tapestry commissions as well as maintaining the existing tapestries in royal residences and collections.

"Francis Poyntz relied on skilled émigré weavers, many of whom were Catholic and had left the Dutch Commonwealth because of religious and economic turmoil."

For pictures and more details of its history, poke around here:

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Bodleian Library has three splendid 16th-17th century tapestries showing counties of England. For 200 years the Bodleian never displayed any of the tapestry maps because it didn't have a big enough spare wall.

They came out of storage when the Weston Library building opened in 2015, creating the first proper exhibition space for one of them. All three have been magnificently restored in partnership with the National Trust’s conservation experts. Gentle washing in Belgium brought out astonishingly beautiful colors, suggesting they could never have been exposed to daylight for long.

Damage from creasing suggests that the tapestries were folded for long periods. And straight-edged gaps show where sections were deliberately cut out to use in upholstery — a chunk of Gloucestershire reportedly ended up as a fire screen.

Oxfordshire, although damaged, includes a magnificent beast representing the figure that is cut into the turf in the Vale of the White Horse, and London is shown with the Tower of London, a solitary bridge and the tall spire of Old St. Paul’s 70 years before its destruction in the Great Fire. Oxford itself is praised in a florid text panel for its “sixeteene colledges and eyght halles”.

Perhaps we should knock on the doors of all the grand country houses and ask if, by any chance, they have an old cushion cover densely woven with villages, church towers, orchards and deer parks? The Bodleian would love to get them back.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

After the Restoration, the finest new tapestries come from Paris:

"In 1662 Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV's minister of finance, took over the Gobelins manufactory on behalf of the Crown; its official title became Manufacture Royale des Meubles de la Couronne (Royal Factory of Furniture to the Crown). The first director, Charles Le Brun, orchestrated numerous craftsmen, including tapestry weavers, painters, bronze-workers, furniture-makers, and gold- and silversmiths, who supplied objects exclusively for [Louis XIV]'s palaces or as royal gifts. ...

"The tapestries woven at the Gobelins were the finest of any produced in Europe in the 1600s and 1700s. Cartoons were ordered from leading painters such as Le Brun, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Charles Coypel, and François Boucher. Skilled weavers were paid according to the difficulty of the work; those entrusted with heads and flesh tones received the highest wages.

"During the reign of Louis XIV, tapestries celebrated the glory of the Sun King, ..."

For more, see:

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

In October 1668 Pepys buys some "hangings" -- presumably tapestries -- as part of the gentrification of their home, from an upholsterer, which leads me to think they were second hand. The Upper Sort who would own tapestries had been hard hit by the Great Fire, taxation, the Second Anglo-Dutch War, etc., so selling off excess belongings would be happening in 1668:

L&M: The prices both of this [hanging] ... suggest that they were either second-hand or imitation tapestries made of painter or stained cloth. The 'Acts of the Apostles' was a favorite design, based on cartoons by Raphael and manufactured at the Mortlake tapestry works (with which both Sir Sackville and Sir Richard Crow were connected, 1661-7): Whinney and Miller, pp. 126-7, 129-30.

An example of what L&M have in mind is this Mortlake Tapestry 1636-38 from King Charles’ set of 'Acts of The Apostles' 'Elymas struck by Blindness' in the Second State Diningroom:

Raphael Cartoons

By the time the tapestries weere installed in the middle of November, 1668, Pepys' justified pride in his acquisitions was tinged by being in the middle of Elizabeth's great betrayal:
"This night the upholsters did finish the hanging of my best chamber, but my sorrow and trouble is so great about this business, that it puts me out of all joy in looking upon it or minding how it was."

I'm almost moved to feeling sorry for him ... almost.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

WONDERFUL pictures of the Battle of Solebay tapestry currently at Greenwich Palace, going our for restoration now. Come back in a couple of years for the comparison ... it brings to life the horrors of naval warfare in wooden ships.


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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.