More about the Bayeux Tapestry – some other replicas 

The Bayeux Tapestry, as some of my followers will know, often attracts my attention. This great relic of the romanesque period will always be in the forefront of comment as it is such a valuable contemporary record of the events leading up to the Battle of Hastings. The original social media with just a sprinkling of fake news.

The Bayeux Tapestry Gallery, Reading Museum and Art Gallery, U.K.
The Bayeux Tapestry Gallery, Reading Museum and Art Gallery, U.K.

Reading Museum holds one of our best replicas, embroidered in 1885 by a group of Staffordshire women. It is probably the jewel of Reading’s collection and has been very well presented, enabling the viewer to follow the story of Duke William, Bishop Odo and King Harold Godwinson all those years ago. There are other replicas worthy of note of course. I never tire of visiting this exhibit, but a word of warning – go in the afternoon after the school visits have been!

The Guensey replica, created between 2012-13, concentrates on the final scene. The original work appears unfinished with the end of the story showing the English soldiers running away from the battle after Harold’s death. It is not known how much of the original piece is missing but the new section is about 10 feet long and concludes with the coronation of King William at Westminster Abbey. This mirrors the coronation of Edward the Confessor earlier. The new conclusion can be seen at Bayeux when the museum re-opens in 2024.

James Cundell, Bayeux Tapestry, 1872-74, hand painted photographic paper on linen. Image Bonham’s.
James Cundell, Bayeux Tapestry, 1872-74, hand painted photographic paper on linen. Image Bonham’s.

James Cundell produced six photographic replicas in 1874, one of which was sold at Bonham’s in 2009. The only other usable version is in the V&A together with the 185 glass plates with the tapestry’s black and white  images. It took Cundell two years to create the photographic plates, convert them into one photograph and then, hand colour the work at The Royal School of Art. The wide scan photograph was then finished on linen paper.

Mia Hansson, of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, with her full-size replica of the Bayeux Tapestry, 2022.
Mia Hansson, of Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, with her full-size replica of the Bayeux Tapestry, 2022.

My interest in the tapestry has been wakened by a great story in the news recently. Mia Hansson, a teacher from Cambridgeshire, is recreating the masterpiece. She is currently about half way through after about six years. She was surprised that the original contained so many mistakes, such as faceless soldiers and men with two left hands. This made me ask whether it was ever meant to be perfect. You would not expect romanesque castles or manuscripts to be perfect in their construction. But why did they make visual errors when they were more than capable of getting it ‘right’. My thought is, like the odd figures in the margins, the mistakes were deliberate – a sort of signature of the artist. If a woman working in a Norman sweat shop wanted to leave a message of her existence; what better way than let an error get through.

What do you think? Whatever I continue to be amazed by this piece of history and the hold it continues to have over us… and as I always remind you it is a work of embroidery – not a tapestry at all!

Photo image: Joe Giddens

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Belinda Wright says:

    I think it is a great work of art. My partner also created a replica of the bayeux tapestry from wood. He hand carved it and completed it in 2014.check it out at Jason Welch Bayeux Tapestry Carving on fb. If you Google it you can see it too.

    Like

    1. Brilliant. Do you mind if I add it to my blog?

      Like

  2. Susie says:

    Lovely to see it is still inspiring artists today
    What you don’t like school children? Xxx

    Like

    1. Love them – but love the quiet more

      Like

  3. Belinda Wright says:

    No not at all. Please get in contact if you need any info. I also know of a guy in New Zealand who has replicated it, from pins of knitting machines. Medieval Mosaic.

    Like

Leave a Reply to Belinda Wright Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s