The 16th century was the ‘Golden Age’ of Flemish tapestry production, when highly skilled weavers in numerous workshops created many fine works across what are now Belgium and the Netherlands.
In England large, decorative tapestries were displayed in palaces, castles and grand residences. They served a practical purpose, one of insulation and draught proofing. But such tapestries were also a status symbol as only the most wealthy could afford them and the design tells us something about the owners. The tapestries at Mount Edgcumbe boast of hunting parties on plentiful land as well as suggesting a pastoral ideal in which people go about their days in a beautiful landscape of ample foliage and wildlife. There may be more specific stories within these tapestries that are hinted at yet hard to define, as the set is incomplete.
In 2005 Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park was successful in securing £49,700 from the Heritage Lottery Your Heritage Fund to restore these three very old and delicate tapestries. The work took around three years.
First the tapestries were transported back to Belgium in order to be cleaned in a specialist studio. They then went to the conservation studio in Dorset where, textile conservator, Alison Lister spent hundreds of hours unpicking and stitching, sewing and strengthening. She also removed the original lining and replaced it with a new one of unbleached cotton and added new specially dyed dubloons which are the wide bands ‘framing’ the tapestry. The tapestries look fabulous now with many areas that were once messy and fragile with old repairs stronger and neater.
“The tapestries at Mount Edgcumbe boast of hunting parties on plentiful land as well as suggesting a pastoral ideal in which people go about their days in a beautiful landscape of ample foliage and wildlife.”