We are traveling to Angers this morning. Dave and Judy will do a Michelin Green Guide walk while Dan, Paulette and I will go to the castle. I can never get enough of seeing the Apocalypse Tapestry. So while I sit in the shade and knit, Dan and Paulette tour the castle with audio guides. Then we go together to the tapestry museum.
|The beginning of one of 6 tapestries, there are 4 more parts around the corner|
The museum is integrated into 3 sides of a lower courtyard created just for the purpose of housing the tapestry. Today, one would never guess that it is a building from 1954. One enters the building with gift shop on the left and video entrance to the tapestry on the right. Then one enters through a door to a dimly lit vestibule and a second door to the darkened gallery where the tapestry is hung along one wall in two rows along the L-shaped gallery.
Originally 140 metres long (that's about 450 feet long) of which 104 metres remain, the tapestry is dimly lit (40 watt bulbs) to preserve it from further damage due to light penetration. The first sight of this monumental work literally takes your breath away. (And from your initial vantage point, you can only see about half the tapestry.) It's enormous! The original tapestry was six pieces each longer than 70 feet and about 18 feet tall. Each piece tells part of the story of the book of Revelation.
I've seen this piece now three times since being here and each time deepens my appreciation for this work of art.
Our lunch stop is the grounds of a former hospital,
|example of a medieval herb and medicinal garden in the hospital grounds, surrounded by a "plessis" a stick fence|
|L'hôpital St. Jean|
Jean Lurçat discovered the Angers Apocalypse tapestries in 1937 and was inspired to explore the art of tapestry, reviving this weaving industry and developing a modern aesthetic for monumental tapestries. Tapestries are created by first making a cartoon, a line drawing of the work. Yarn colors are chosen and numbered and the numbers transferred to the cartoon which is attached under the weft threads of the loom so that the weaver can weave the design in the chosen colors. Lurçat is credited with the revival of the tapestry industry in Aubusson which, since the depression of 1929, had suffered from lack of commissions. Lurçat simplified the palette and motifs used in creating tapestries, making them less costly to weave.
|Tapestry being woven|
|Cartoon for the tapestry including numbered sections and matching numbered yarn color selections|
|The numbered cartoon lies under the weaving so the weavers can follow the design and color choices|
Le Chant du Monde, begun in 1957, is 10 panels, each about 10 meters high, of varying lengths, covering over 100 meters of wall space inside the hospital.
The first tapestry is called The Great Threat and shows the obliteration of Hiroshima and the dropping of the atomic bomb on the shape of the world.
|The Great Threat|
The second is called The Man of Hiroshima and the disintegrating man is symbol enough of the devastation to mankind. The broken cross shows loss of belief, the falling book the loss of knowledge. White gloves smybolize western society's tacit codes of behavior and the sickle reminds of both work and political ideology. The basic tenets of civilized society have been challenged by the dropping of the atomic bomb.
The Mass Grave speaks for itself. Lurçat experienced death from both WWI and WWII.
|The Mass Grave|
The End of Everything likewise shows the void left after man destroys the world.
|The End of Everything|
Lurçat couldn't conceive of a world without hope and so turned from the darkness he'd experienced to the possibilities also possessed by man to live in peace and harmony in Man in Glory and Peace, to the return to life after disaster.
|Man in Glory and Peace|
As man works in concert with the universe, it becomes more organized as in Water and Fire,
|Water and Fire|
while Champagne celebrates life bursting forth.
The Conquest of Space celebrates one of Man's great technical achievements.
|Conquest of Space (Can you find Sputnik?)|
Poetry celebrates how all parts of the cosmos link to form a whole.
|Poetry - includes all the signs of the zodiac|
And finally, finished in 1966, just as Lurçat died, Ornamentos Sagrados, this enigmatic tapestry remains unexplained. It is thought that Lurçat planned at least one more tapestry to complement this series, but his death precluded such a plan.
Seeing the Apocalypse tapestries and trying to understand their meaning to the medieval common man and then seeing the Lurçat tapestries which show graphically symbols and stories that have meaning for me, I can't help but wonder even more at the mind of the medieval man. I wonder also at the lack of progress we've made in caring for each other and the world since medieval times and I'm a bit sad.