A few weeks ago I spent a magical day looking at many tapestries from the storeroom of the Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum. I’m planning which ones I will use in connection with my workshop on Norwegian billedvev in September. I am in deep debt to the very knowledgeable curator, Laurann Gilbertson. The collection is wonderful. There are very old ones, like this large Wise and Foolish Virgins tapestry.
Then there are many smaller tapestries, most woven in Norway in the early 1900s, that are copies of medieval pieces, like this one. I concentrated on those.
One of my favorite tapestries in the second category, weavings made in Norway during the National Romantic period of the late 1800s to early 1900s in Norway, features food. These charming, well-dressed women are flattened in space in their chairs, with a wonderful feast in front of them.
It was interesting to look at a book of old tapestries (this volume was on pillows), and find photos of very old pieces that were the models for several in the Vesterheim collection. Here’s the book cover and the photo of the original feast tapestry.
Right off, it’s easy enough to pick out the wine goblets for their festive dinner. But other shapes? I doubt there was watermelon at the meal, but perhaps the square that looks like a layer cake was a dessert.
Look at the lady below; it looks like she is holding a snake.
Maybe it is a napkin?
I think I need a medieval food scholar to figure out many of the items that would have been on this table.
Finally, here’s a contemporary tapestry made in the format of flattened people at a table, Archie Brennan’s fabulous image of members of the board (image found online). The ties really channel the decorative center designs in dresses of the the medieval Norwegian women! I am already thinking of the design of my own “people at the table” tapestry.