This little tapestry was made at the Soho tapestry factory in London, circa 1715, under the direction of John Vanderbank the elder, the leading tapestry weaver of his day. Vanderbank was Yeoman Arras-maker to the Great Wardrobe, supplying the royal family from his premises in Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London, from 1689 until his death in 1717.
It is one from a set of six tapestries that hang in the tapestry room at The Vyne, a National Trust property in Hampshire. It is designed with chinoiserie scenes of exotic birds, animals and flowering trees within foliated borders, woven in wool and silk and all set against a dark brown background.
What is ‘Chinoiserie’?
Chinoiserie, from ‘chinois’ the French for Chinese, was a style inspired by art and design from China, Japan and other Asian countries. In the 18th century porcelain, silk and lacquerware imported from China and Japan were extremely fashionable. This led many British designers and craftsmen to imitate Asian designs and to create their own fanciful versions of the East. The style was at its height from 1750 to 1765, so this is an early example.
The tapestry had been extensively repaired, with poor quality cobbled darning, and the dark brown wool background was damaged and weak. The galloons (the outer narrow borders on a tapestry) were very moth eaten, and overall the tapestry was in a poor condition.
I started by removing the lining and old repair patches, unpicking all the cobbled repairs, and taking samples of each thread from the back of the tapestry to test for wet fastness. The tapestry was then washed, and this removed a good deal of dirt.
I then mounted the tapestry on a bespoke frame and applied a full support to the verso of linen scrim. Conservation repairs were worked through to the linen, using purpose-dyed wools and mercerised cottons, to support and stabilise all damaged and weak areas, and to reintroduce definition of design where this had been obscured.
Finally, I attached new colour-matched galloons to cover the scraps of remaining originals, and a new down-proof lining to protect the tapestry from the back. It is now able to be safely hung on open display at The Vyne in Hampshire – well worth a visit!