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Tapestry Mystery #2

A new mystery! Does anyone recognize this piece or the weaver? I recently received this inquiry:

Recently I purchased a tapestry from the personal collection of Mary Walker Phillips.  It was given to the seller around 1998, when Mary was beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s.  The seller did not think the tapestry was Mary’s own work, but possibly a gift from another weaver.  Mary did not share the history of the tapestry with the seller…The tapestry is rather small, about 12 3/4 “ x 20 1/2”. The seller added a sleeve on the back so she could hang it on the wall.  The warp is cotton or linen, and the weft seems to be hand spun yarn.  The spinning wheel in the image is a typical Dutch wheel, with extra bobbins on an on-board Lazy Kate. At this point we have no idea who wove the tapestry, but the artist chose to use the open warp/transparency technique patented by Frida Hansen.  I know you teach this technique, and have studied it extensively, so I thought I would write you.”


(As an aside, I’m impressed that Miranda can identify the specifics of the spinning wheel in the image.)

It’s a beautiful almost-Cubist spinner. Georges Braque came to mind when I saw it.

Georges Braque, Still Life: Le Jour, 1929, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Chester Dale Collection

This was my initial response, along with a request to share the mystery more widely.

Dear Miranda, 
Thank you for sharing this with me. It is very pretty and interesting…I don’t have any idea whose work it is. 
Mary Walker Phillips was most known for her knitting as art, but I see that she was a weaver at the beginning and also a weaving instructor. In my fantasy, I wonder whether it was given to her by a former student. 
The weaver of the spinner tapestry left open warp in her piece, but not really in the way the Frida Hansen wove. Hansen’s patent for open warp weaving focused on the use of specially plied wool yarn in her pieces, so that the woven areas would remain in place without any special knotting around the woven parts. It is not easy to see in the photo, but I think there are half-hitches or some sort of knotting around the woven areas to keep it from slipping on the cotton warp. Your piece uses cotton warp, which I don’t think Frida Hansen ever used for her transparencies. Also, Frida Hansen transparency weavings include the use of positive and negative spaces throughout her designs. In your piece, the central motif fully covers the warp, with the open warp as a sort of framing device.
Still, who knows, the weaver could very well have been a fan of Frida Hansen! 
Again, thanks for sharing. With your permission, I’d love to share the story and your photo on my blog. I know I have lots of followers who are interested in Frida Hansen and open warp tapestries. Maybe we could find someone who recognizes the work? 

In this detail from a Frida Hansen transparency, you can see that occasionally some portions of the image are woven without open warp between the colors (see the body of the bird). But in general, there is a more overall use of open warps in Frida Hansen’s work than in the mystery tapestry.

Miranda sent some detail shots and indeed, there are half-hitches on some portions of the border to keep the wool weft yarn in place on the cotton warp.

I’d love to solve this mystery!

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