Site icon Robbie LaFleur

The Textile Center Garage Sale: Norwegian Tapestry Cards (yes) and Sunbonnet Girls (no)

At the Textile Center of Minnesota garage sale in April, my best find was a set of cards depicting medieval Norwegian tapestries.  They must have been languishing in someone’s cupboard for several decades, waiting for just the right recipient – me. I am just beginning a tapestry of my daughter in medieval Norwegian style.  Her ruff will become a scarf, her crown a halo of curly hair, and in her upraised hand, an Iphone. The tapestries on the cards included a variety of face styles, better than the one I had drawn.

Aren’t these inspirational, charming, and filled with variation?

Here are all the cards. The faces seem a bit unusual in this one; I haven’t seem many old Norwegian tapestries that depict an iris in the middle of a circle for an eye.

Meeting Between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Gudbrandsdal, ca. 1640. Kunstindustrimuseet i Oslo.

This one has a very weird baby Jesus body!

The Three Magi and the Adoration, Skjåk, Norway, dated 1661. Kunstindustrimuseet i Oslo.

My tapestry will have about this level of abstraction, and a red horse, too.  I love the stylized red, blue, and green horses of the old tapestries; it was a hard decision to make.

Detail of tapestry depicting the Three Magi and the Adoration, Skjåk, Norway, dated 1661

Undoubtedly the colors of this tapestry filled with dizzying pattern have faded.  I wish I could see the strong, true original colors.

Detail of tapestry depicting the story of John the Baptist, Norway, latter half of the 16th century. Zorn Collections, Mora, Sweden

The king and queen have nicely rendered expressions, while the face of the man on the other side of the table didn’t receive quite so much care.  It’s hard to decipher the items on the table.  Two wine glasses are clear, and the center image, although it looks like an old-fashioned telephone, might be some sort of chalice, too.  What are the other table-top items?

Detail of tapestry depicting the Marriage of Canaan, Gudbrandsdal, Norway, dated 1653. Kunstindustrimuseet, Oslo.

The word used to describe this tapestry on the card was epitophium, which I am guessing would be a sort of tapestry done in memorial for someone, an epitaph. The figure in this detail is wearing a stylish hat.

Detail of epitaphium, depicting a dying man surrounded by Christian virtues. Norway 1570-80. Kunstindustrimuseet, Oslo.

As the popular images of the wise and foolish virgins were woven repeatedly in Western Norway, often on pillowtops, the figures became increasingly stylized.  I like the birds tucked into the background on this piece, and the slightly nervous, wavy background reminds me of a Norwegian painting nearly 200 years later, Edvard Munch’s Skrik (The Scream).

Three “Virgins” from a West Norwegian tapestry, approximately 1700. Private collection.

I love volunteering at the Textile Center of Minnesota Garage sale each year.  I inevitably come home with treasures, enjoy the hours with other volunteers, and see crazy stuff.  Like, really, who would make a quilt out of the ridiculous sunbonnet squares (displayed by super-volunteer Tom Skogstrom)? In retrospect, I should have bought them! Wouldn’t it make a fun challenge to give them to your most creative artist friends for embellishment, deconstruction, destruction, or other transformation? (Does the sunbonnet vaguely resemble Donald Trump’s hair?)

I can’t wait until next year’s sale.


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