The Burrell Collection Tapestries Project

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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

Posted in Uncategorized