Technique and manufacture

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Briseis is returned to Achilles by Nestor.
This is one of the cartoons Rubens made for a series of tapestries based on the life of Achilles.
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.


The technique is, in theory, a simple one. Firstly the warp thread is set up using strong yarns, usually wool, arranged close together in parallel. The weft, which creates the visible part of the tapestry, is then threaded into this structure. Other finer threads of silk, or sometimes gold or silver, are interlaced with the warp thread by passing them over and under the warp at right angles. However, despite its apparent simplicity, tapestry making is extraordinarily hard work done in highly specialized workshops.

To produce a tapestry panel a pattern is needed. A painter would usually create a sketch on a reduced scale and other painters would then enlarge this into what was called a tapestry cartoon, the same size as the tapestry. The weavers would then work directly on this cartoon.

Miguel Ángel Zalama

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