The Bayeux tapestry/embroidery: the medieval universe of William the Conqueror


Italy, Verona – Tuesday, November 27, at 17:30, will be held the second meeting of the cycle of conferences sponsored by the Directorate of Art Museums Monuments of the City of Verona and the University of Verona, Department of Cultures and Civilization. The initiative is supported by the Friends of the Civic Art Museums of Verona.

Bayeux’s tapestry/embroidery: the medieval universe of William the Conqueror

The Bayeux tapestry is a famous large embroidered linen cloth, kept more than 70 meters long and about fifty centimeters wide, formed by a juxtaposition of eight pieces of fabric. Through a precise historical event, this immense piece of fabric offers us a vision of contemporary society. The theme developed is the conquest of the Crown of England by the Duke of Normandy, William, which ended with the battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066. Beyond the account of this conquest, the embroidery proposes a contemporary or slightly later explanation of a number of events of the time, and presents a double reading, historical (the conquest) and moralistic (the consequences of Harold’s betrayal). Harold had sworn on the relics of the cathedral of Bayeux, in 1064, submission and loyalty to Duke William, promise that he broke by illegitimately taking power at the death of Edward the Confessor, and that he will not find his resolution except during the battle of Hastings. The correctness of the historical story has to do largely with the ability that the author had in individualizing the main protagonists and the places of the events: thanks to the insignia, you can recognize among others Eduardo, William with a raised sword or Harold with an eagle in hand; the palaces of Winchester, Rouen or Westminster; the churches of Bosham or Mont-Saint-Michel. The architecture and the monumental landscape are rewritten here to illustrate the battle scenes: the representation of the castles and the feudal mouths, the palaces and the churches, constitutes an important element in the history of the architecture. The animals accompany the scenes along the entire length of the work and are also inserted in the outer bands of frames: the bestiary is very present in the medieval imagination, both for its allegorical and moral value, and for its geographical value. The embroidery of Bayeux not only allows us to study the material aspects of life of the time that we do not yet know well, but should also help us to establish stylistic comparisons with other artistic contexts of the late eleventh century or the first decades of the twelfth century. Comparisons with mural painting and illuminated books are therefore essential. The embroidery of Bayeux allows, which is very rare, to examine what could be the decoration of a civil residence in the Romanesque Middle Ages.  For some, the embroidery would have been carried out in England, while for others it was made locally, in Bayeux itself. The date is also subject to discussion: shortly after the battle of Hastings, and therefore 1066k, or the first decades of the 12th century, in this case perhaps at the behest of the Conqueror’s daughter, Adèle de Blois and England.



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