The Burrell Collection Tapestries Project

Glasgow Museums

Tapestry Project visit to Stirling Castle to see the Stirling Palace Tapestries

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Visit to Stirling Castle

Sarah Foskett

Assistant Textile Conservator

On Monday 26th April, eight members of the tapestry Project visited Stirling Castle to see the Stirling Palace Tapestries. This is a unique project, launched in 2001 by Historic Scotland in partnership with the Quinque Foundation in the United States, to recreate a series of 7 medieval tapestries depicting the story of the Hunt of the Unicorn. The originals are held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the completed set of replicas will hang in the future presentation of the Queen’s Inner Hall.  They are being woven by the renowned West Dean Tapestry Studio both at Stirling castle and at West Dean in the south of England.

Louise Martin, Head Weaver at Stirling Castle, first showed us the 4 completed tapestries currently hanging in the chapel. We were all completely taken aback at the first sight of them – the vibrancy of the colours, the clarity of the design and the subtlety of the detail were all hugely impressive. I think the impression had all the more impact as the team have spent the last 18 months photographing, assessing and handling historic tapestries and have become very familiar with the colour palette, texture, condition and fragility they present.

For me one of the most interesting aspects of The Stirling Palace Tapestries is the juxtaposition of the medieval, in terms of the image, and the contemporary, in terms of the colours and the condition. It was thought provoking on many levels and part of what makes it such an interesting project. Louise explained some of the background to the project, the reasons for the choice of the tapestry, and some of the many the challenges this unique project to contemporary weavers.

We then walked down to the purpose-built temporary studio in the Nether Bailey. Here, Louise explained in detail the process by which the original set are copied, the colours matched and the designs drawn up. Weaver Rudi Richardson, who was trying to do some work until we arrived, explained the practicalities and logistics of the weaving process and of working as part of a team. We pored over the woven samples, relishing the opportunity to discuss in detail techniques and effects we have seen in the Burrell Collection tapestries. It was both fascinating and hugely beneficial to our understanding of the techniques of construction to actually see the weaving in progress and talk in depth to the practitioners – we all had so many questions it must have been exhausting!

Louise and Rudi were so generous with their time and knowledge that the trip was a great success. I think each member of the team came away with something different from the experience but am sure that it has added a dimension to all of our knowledge and understanding of tapestries.

I wish we had gone sooner!

More about the Stirling Tapestries project, and the Palace Project as a whole can be found on the Stirling Castle website:


Written by johnferry

May 27, 2010 at 10:12 am

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Tapestries: A New Interpretation Flyer!

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We are pleased to present the exhibition flyer for Tapestries: A New Interpretation. Please click the link below to downlaod, and distribute to all your friends!

Tapestries: A New Interpretation exhibition flyer

Written by lyndseymcl

April 8, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Tapestries: A New Interpretation Friday 16 April – Sunday 11 July

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We are pleased to announce that we will be displaying exciting new works by five Masters of Fine Arts students from the Glasgow School of Art. Each student has created work in response to the Tapestries Research Project, exploring a different aspect of tapestries and weaving. 

 Oliver Braid  explores the concepts of narrative and storytelling, often present within the tapestries, and has created a mixed media sculpture and collage.    

 Rosemary Scanlon presents three watercolours which play with the theme of hunting – common throughout the tapestries – and plays with perspective in a similar way to the earlier tapestries in the Collection.   

Peter Schoeffer is creating his artwork in situ – on the underside of the stairs to our learning room. Playing with the notion of tapestries as wall hangings, Peter is altering the context of the image by placing it in an unexpected place, melding the medieval  with the contemporary. Peter will be working in the museum from the 12 April.  

 Suzie Smith has created two separate works. Divine Wisdom presents the largest tapestry in comic book form, allowing visitors the chance to decide what the characters are saying and thinking.   Suzie has also created two “tape tapestries” made with modern materials.   

Shelton Walker will be exploring the idea of art, of the time spent viewing versus the time spent creating. Tapestries took years to create, yet are often viewed in a single glance. Shelton will be timing how long visitors spending the tapestry galleries, translating this into binary code, and recording this on the windows of the museum. Shelton will be creating this work from 16 April.

Written by lyndseymcl

April 6, 2010 at 1:24 pm

The largest tapestry!

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The Triumph of Divine Wisdom

The Triumph of Divine Wisdom

Recent visitors to the Burrell will have noticed some changes in the tapestry gallery. The four large tapestries occupying this space have now been removed. But don’t despair! The largest tapestry in the collection, never before on public display before is up. The Triumph of Divine Wisdom will be on display until September 2010. Due to the research in progress, much of what was thought about this tapestry has been proven to be incorrect, or at least not-quite-correct! Definitive information about the tapestry will not be available until the Burrell Tapestry Catalogue is published. In the mean time, here’s what we know. Or what we think we know!

• At it’s highest point, the tapestry measures 4 meters 60 centimetres
• At it’s widest point it measures 8 meters 7 centimetres
• It weighs 39.5 kilograms (roughly 6.2 stones)

• This tapestry and ‘The Triumph of Virtue’ are copies of a much richer set of nine tapestries made for the young Emperor Charles V at the time of his coronation, and the overall theme of the set relates to the various qualities needed by a Renaissance-period monarch.
• The original set was completed in about 1523.
• We think that this tapestry and the ‘Triumph of Faith’ were made at some point after the mid 16th century.

• This tapestry and ‘The Triumph of Faith’ were not purchased at auction by the Burrell Trustees shortly after Sir William’s death in 1958 as previously thought. We have since discovered that no Trustees had yet been appointed. We now think both tapestries were probably acquired by Sir William Burrell’s wife, Constance, perhaps fulfilling a wish made by Sir William before he died.

• The title of this tapestry will probably be published in our catalogue as ‘Virtue’ or ‘Virtue overcoming Vice’ (i.e. the two central male figures), rather than ‘Divine Wisdom’, the figure at the top of the tapestry. The many other figures in the tapestry interact to form part of a very complicated allegorical programme.

Curator of Medieval and Renaissance art, Pat Collins will give an illustrated talk about these allegories in the Lecture Theatre on Thursday 3 June.

Written by lyndseymcl

March 18, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Tapestry mania

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Well, we’re just about recovered from our latest run of tapestry events. From half term happenings to study days, we’ve packed in activities to entertain and educate all the family. A succesful half term weekend of tapestry events  in February kept visitors tapestry-tuned, with Tapestry tales from our storyteller, Allison Galbraith,  a weaving demo from Jonathan Cleaver of the Dovecot Studio – a real live weaver, and a visit from Sir Hugo, our very own Medieval knight,  who showed off armour from the period of the tapestries. A good time was had by all, with over 2000 visitors in over the long weekend. Watch this space for updates on how the rest of our events went in February and March. And keep an eye out for our April – June programme!

Written by lyndseymcl

March 18, 2010 at 12:32 pm

Conservation update

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Textile conservator Helen Hughes updates us on what the conservators are doing with the tapestries now.

Wednesday 27th January 2010

 Port de la Mer  is hanging on the hoist having just been photographed. 

Triumph of the Virgin has been laid out on tables and is being surfaced cleaned by vacuuming.  This is giving Sarah the first chance to look at it closely.  The plan is for it to be hung in preparation for the front being photographed on Monday.

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January 30, 2010 at 1:51 pm

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How to move a tapestry in ten easy steps

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The Burrell Collection  staff displayed a nice bit of team work in November 2009. The Conservators needed a hand to move some of the largest tapestries form the store up to to the temporary exhibition space to be studied and photographed.  One Friday, we took advantage of later opening (11am), pulled up our sleeves, and put our manual handling training to good use, all documented by Enzo the photographer.

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January 29, 2010 at 4:28 pm

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