The history of tapestries goes back many centuries ago. Indeed, since Antiquity, the technique of tapestries was known in the Orient. Loom were then made of few pieces of wood, but man endeavoured to mingle warps thread with colored weft threads, in order to form a design.
In the Middle-Age (5th to 15th century), tradesmen and crusaders introduced tapestries in Europe. The weaving of the tapestries was done then with a limited range of natural colors. The craft expanded considerably in the large cities where the workshops were built : Paris and, in Flandres, Arras (origin of the word Arazzi, Italian word for tapestry), Tournai, Bruges and Brussels. Tapestries were at that time a useful item. Beyond the decorative aspect, they had the primary purpose to insulate the large rooms of castles, thanks to the wool and silk they were made of.
The Renaissance (XVth and XVI th century) amplifies the rise of the tapestries. Indeed, at that time, many motifs from painters were turned into tapestries. The Flemish workshops, in full growth, copied the cartons (original drawings) of famous painters. In order to respect the colours of the paintings, the weavers used very fine threads and an increasingly full range of colours.
It is in XVII th century that large manufactures were developed : Gobelins, Beauvais, Aubusson and Felletin, even if the work was still manual. These manufactures were founded directly or indirectly by the kings who bought most of the production.
The mechanization of weaving started in 1733, when the English John Kay imagined a foot-operated loom which projected the shuttle from one edge of the warp to the other. It is with the invention of Joseph Jacquard (1752-1834) that looms with punch-cards appeared, thus allowing the realization of very complex weaves. Tapestries, real work of art, become a real symbol of wealth, and decorate the large upper-class residences during the following centuries.
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