The Mystery of the Eichstatt Tapestry – 艾希斯塔特挂毯的奥秘

Opinion - 08 Aug 2018

The Mystery of the Eichstatt Tapestry

The first public exhibition of a 15th-century altar-hanging prompts the question: who made it?

By Mimi Chu

In Sam Fogg gallery’s latest exhibition of medieval and renaissance textiles in London, a German tapestry went on public display for the first time in its recorded history. Dated at around 1480 and woven from wool and linen in varying colours and configurations, it unrolls to reveal five scenes from the Life of Christ, vertically separated by column-like bands. Read from left to right, the scenes chronicle Christ (identified by his cruciform halo) appearing to his followers after his resurrection. Dressed in radiant white, he lifts his hand in benediction to a kneeling Mary Magdalene; disguised in a grey cloak, he greets two disciples on the road to Emmaus; reduced to no more than his feet, he disappears from the frame and ascends to heaven; rematerializing in the form of a dove on the day of Pentecost, he imbues the Virgin and apostles with the Holy Spirit; and, finally, enthroned on a rainbow during the Last Judgment, he displays his wounds before a sea of bodies.

Luxuriously decorated with swirling palm fronds set against a crimson background, the tapestry is as much a statement about wealth and status as it is a narrative image. While there is no direct evidence of how it was originally used, its excellent condition suggests it was displayed only on rare occasions – probably hung at an altar on certain feast days or presented to esteemed guests as a talking point.


The Mystery of the Eichstatt Tapestry - 艾希斯塔特挂毯的奥秘

Detail from tapestry with Scenes from the Life of Christ, Central Germany, possibly Eichstatt, c.1480, wool, linen wefts with an undyed wool warp, 61 x 234 cm. Courtesy: Sam Fogg, London 

The tapestry remains just as captivating to the contemporary eye. Viewing it up close, as flowers pixelate into diamonds floating bright against a spinning ground, you might be forgiven for thinking you’re looking at a 1980s videogame. Or a new age biology diagram: Christ’s blood-soaked footprints emerge in the shape of lungs from a network of arteries and foliage. Or a surrealist painting: the heads and hands of the damned whirl out of distant crevices, dripping and swelling into abstraction. Such delightful quirks are, in part, explained by the work’s singular weaving technique. In contrast to other tapestries of the period, which convey shading through interlocking triangulated grids, this piece models its subjects through fine alternations of coloured threads that swerve obliquely – allowing for a spontaneity and fluidity that couldn’t otherwise be achieved.

The snaking surface of the tapestry lends a certain naivety to its style: hands warp and bulge like reflections in a convex mirror; mouths clip and swerve into slits and squiggles; chins drop away into convoys of sloping threads. These eccentric figure types with their deviating outlines would be considered flawed by conventional standards and are unlikely to have derived from cartoons made by professional tapestry designers. Rather than tracing its lineage back from maker through artist to patron, this piece is more feasibly the product of a collaborative process, created in and for a local context.


The Mystery of the Eichstatt Tapestry - 艾希斯塔特挂毯的奥秘

Detail from tapestry with Scenes from the Life of Christ, Central Germany, possibly Eichstatt, c.1480, wool, linen wefts with an undyed wool warp, 61 x 234 cm. Courtesy: Sam Fogg, London

In 1926, the scholar Betty Kurth saw the tapestry in the collection of Robert von Hirsch and put forward a compelling theory: that it had been commissioned for the monastery of Saint Walburg in Eichstatt – a convent which had taken in daughters of the local nobility and reached a position of extreme wealth and status by the late 15th century. Observing that its unique figural style echoed that of other objects catalogued in the monastery, she suggested the tapestry was produced by a regional workshop operating in close dialogue with the Eichstatt nuns. Yet, despite its plausibility, Kurth’s hypothesis has essentially lain dormant since its original publication, as the tapestry has passed through the hands of various private collectors, hidden from public view.

Four late 15th century altar-hangings depicting 23 scenes from the Fall of Man, the Life of the Virgin and the Life and Passion of Christ – on display at the Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia in Rome since 1948 – bear a striking similarity in style, format and materials to the Eichstatt tapestry. In 2017, the scholar Forte Grazzini, observing that these four panels share motifs with works in other media, proposed that they originated in the Middle Rhine. Given the widespread circulation of prints in the 15th century, and their free and frequent use as compositional models, these aesthetic parallels might be no more than coincidental. However, with the exhibition of the Eichstatt tapestry in London bringing Kurth’s hypothesis back into focus, the possibility that these panels comprise a coherent set merits serious consideration.


The Mystery of the Eichstatt Tapestry - 艾希斯塔特挂毯的奥秘

Detail from tapestry with Scenes from the Life of Christ, Central Germany, possibly Eichstatt, c.1480, wool, linen wefts with an undyed wool warp, 61 x 234 cm. Courtesy: Sam Fogg, London

The iconography of the five Eichstatt panel scenes invokes the presence of the nuns – particularly the first and final images, which thematize how the female penitent relinquishes sin through the love of Christ. In the former, Mary Magdalene, dressed in an elaborate robe lined with ermine, her hair unbound and partially veiled as a sign of her attempts to redeem her sins, holds an ointment pot (a costly token of her devotion); the latter, depicting the Last Judgment, works in dialogue with the Magdalene by dramatizing the final bid for salvation. The second and fourth scenes present themes for moving from despair to belief, tribulation to triumph, through faith in Christ and devotion to the Church. A disciple splays his arms in woe having not yet discerned Christ in his risen state. Meanwhile, the Virgin leads the apostles out of darkness as Mater Ecclesiae while the Holy Ghost descends at Pentecost. Finally, the central scene presents the prototype of monastic devotion: John the Evangelist, who folds his arms in reverence to the Virgin during Christ’s ascension. As the apostle who witnessed Jesus on the cross and took the Virgin into his care at Christ’s plea, John is the model for giving oneself over to the Church.

Woven on a single loom in a fashion that’s at once theologically sophisticated, technically improvisational and graphically amateur, the tapestry – scholarly opinion is now suggesting – was likely created by the Eichstatt nuns themselves. Idiosyncrasies in the surface design make this hypothesis a compelling one. The jarring tension between the symmetrical patterning of the figures’ robes and the asymmetry of the meandering foliate background, for instance, destabilizes three-dimensional space, defying and overturning logic in the presence of God. Meanwhile, certain design flourishes – such as the hopscotching of leaves from dark to light as Christ appears to the Magdalene – pay tribute to the significance of the scenes. The nuns of Eichstatt, we can imagine, contemplated the acts of penitence, faith and reverence represented by this tapestry not only in viewing but also in making. Taking their turns on the loom, weaving their way out of sin.

Main image: Tapestry with Scenes from the Life of Christ, Central Germany, possibly Eichstatt, c.1480, wool, linen wefts with an undyed wool warp, 61 x 234 cm. Courtesy: Sam Fogg, London

Mimi Chu

Mimi Chu is editorial assistant of frieze and is based in London, UK.

Art History
Sam Fogg
Mimi Chu
Medieval Art

意见- 08八月2018神秘的艾希斯塔特挂毯第一次公开展览的十五世纪祭坛悬挂提出的问题:是谁做的?朱咪咪在山姆福克画廊最新的伦敦中世纪和文艺复兴时期的纺织品展览中,德国挂毯首次在其历史记录中公开展出。日期约为1480,并由羊毛和亚麻织成不同颜色和配置,它展开揭示五个场景从基督的生活,垂直分离的柱状带。从左向右读,基督复活后的纪事纪事(由十字架光环所辨认)出现在他的追随者身上。他身穿白皙的衣服,跪在跪着的Mary Magdalene身上,装扮成灰色斗篷,在埃玛斯的路上迎接两个门徒;他只不过是从脚下消失了,然后爬上了天堂,在一天的时间里以鸽子的形式重新化身。五旬节,他将圣母和使徒灌输给圣灵;最后,在最后一次审判中,在彩虹上登基,在一片尸体面前展示他的伤口。华丽的装饰着旋转的棕榈叶,在深红色背景的衬托下,挂毯是一种关于财富和地位的陈述,因为它是一种叙事意象。虽然没有直接证据表明它是如何使用的,但它的极好的条件表明它只在极少的场合显示过——可能是在某些节日的祭坛上挂着的,或者是作为受话者的礼节。3Traceon的Chest.JPG The Mystery of the Eichstatt Tapestry - 艾希斯塔特挂毯的奥秘从挂毯细节与基督生活的场景,中德,可能EiSttt,C.1480,羊毛,亚麻织物与未染色羊毛经纱,61×234厘米。礼貌:Sam Fogg,伦敦,挂毯对当代人来说仍然是迷人的。仔细观察一下,当鲜花变成了钻石,在一个旋转的土地上闪闪发光时,你可能会因为认为你正在看一部80年代的游戏而被原谅。或者一个新的时代生物图:耶稣基督的血液浸透的脚印从动脉和树叶的网络中出现在肺的形状上。或超现实主义绘画:被诅咒的头和手从遥远的裂缝中旋转,滴落并膨胀成抽象。这种令人愉快的怪癖在某种程度上是由工作的奇异编织技术来解释的。与此时期的其他挂毯相比,它通过互锁三角网格传送阴影,这件作品通过对倾斜的彩色螺纹的精细交替来模拟其受试者,这使得自发和流动性无法实现。挂毯的蛇形表面有一定的幼稚风格:在凸起的镜子中用手翘曲和凸起的反射;嘴巴夹子,转弯成狭缝和斜纹;颏掉进斜线的车队中。这些古怪的图形类型与他们的偏离轮廓将被认为是有缺陷的传统标准,不太可能来自漫画由专业挂毯设计师。而不是追溯其传承从制造商通过艺术家到赞助人,这片是更可行的产品的合作过程,创造和为当地的背景。4PTEECCOST.JPG The Mystery of the Eichstatt Tapestry - 艾希斯塔特挂毯的奥秘从挂毯细节与基督生活的场景,中德,可能EICSTATT,C.1480,羊毛,亚麻织物与未染色羊毛经纱,61×234厘米。礼貌:1926伦敦的Sam Fogg,学者Betty Kurth看到了Robert von Hirsch收藏中的挂毯,并提出了一个令人信服的理论:它是在艾希斯塔特修道院的圣瓦尔堡修道院修筑的。当地贵族在十五世纪下旬达到了极富地位的地位。她观察到它独特的具象风格与修道院里编目的其他物件相呼应,她建议挂毯是由一个与艾希斯塔特修女紧密对话的区域工作室制作的。然而,尽管它的合理性,库尔思的假说本质上一直是蛰伏的,因为它的原始出版物,因为挂毯已经通过各种私人收藏家的手,隐藏在公众视线之外。十五世纪下旬的四个祭坛壁画描绘了23个人从人的堕落、处女的生命和基督的生命和激情——从1948以来在罗马的威尼斯宫博物院展出,风格、格式和材料与艾希斯塔特TA有着惊人的相似之处。肉馅在2017,学者福特GrasZi,观察到这四个小组分享图案与其他媒体的作品,建议他们起源于莱茵中部。鉴于印刷品在十五世纪的广泛流传,以及它们作为组成模型的自由和频繁使用,这些美学的相似之处可能只是巧合。然而,随着伦敦EICSTATT挂毯的展览将库尔思的假设重新聚焦,这些面板包括连贯的集合的可能性值得认真考虑。1NoLi-ME-TangeR.JPG WPAP602602IMG从TopeStices的细节,从基督的生活,中德,可能EICSTATT,C.1480,羊毛,亚麻织物与未染色羊毛经纱,61×234厘米。礼貌:Sam Fogg,伦敦的五个艾希斯塔特面板场景的肖像援引尼姑的存在,特别是第一个和最后的图像,这是女性忏悔者如何通过基督的爱来放弃罪的主题。在前者中,Mary Magdalene穿着一件精致的长袍,镶有貂皮,她的头发没有束缚和部分遮盖,这是她试图赎回罪孽的标志,她拿着一个软膏罐(一个昂贵的象征她献身);后者描绘了最后的审判,与玛格达莱妮对话。为救赎最后的竞标而戏剧化。第二个和第四个场景呈现的主题是从绝望到信仰,苦难到胜利,通过对基督的信仰和对教堂的奉献。一个弟子痛苦地张开双臂,在他复活的状态中还没有看到基督。同时,圣母带领使徒走出黑暗如Mater Ecclesiae,圣灵降临五旬节。最后,中心场景展现了僧侣献身的原型:福音传道者约翰,他在耶稣基督的提升过程中双手张开双臂敬畏处女。作为在十字架上亲眼目睹Jesus的使徒,在基督的恳求中把圣母交给他照料,约翰是献身于教会的典范。在织布机上织造一种既神学上复杂,技术上即兴和图形化的业余风格,TopeGrice——学术观点现在暗示——这很可能是由EiStutt修女自己创造的。表面设计中的特质使这一假设成为令人信服的假设。例如,人物长袍的对称图案与蜿蜒的叶状背景不对称性之间的不和谐张力,破坏了三维空间,在上帝面前反抗和颠覆逻辑。同时,某些设计也在蓬勃发展——比如从黑暗到光明的叶子跳跃,就像基督出现在抹大拉一样——向场景的意义致敬。我们可以想象,埃希斯塔特修女们,不仅考虑到观看,而且在制作过程中,考虑到这种挂毯所表现出的忏悔、信仰和敬畏的行为。轮到织布机,织造他们的罪恶之路。主要形象:挂毯与基督生活的场景,中德,可能EiSttt,C.1480,羊毛,亚麻织物与未染色羊毛经纱,61×234厘米。礼貌:Sam Fogg,伦敦朱咪咪朱咪咪是弗里泽的编辑助理,总部设在英国伦敦。艺术史挂毯山姆Fog伦敦朱咪咪中世纪艺术


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