pRFSCOES in Italy: tapestries in Hance . . . French cathedrals and abbeys hung their walls with tapestry stories of the Old and New Testaments, These heavily woven hangings instructed the people and also kept them warm from the draughts.
The earliest native tapestry found in France is the Apocalpyse series in seventy scenes. The work of a Parisian, Nicolas Bataillc, it was made at the end of the 14th century. Its designs were done by Jean dc Bruges, King's painter. who may well have gone to an illuminated MS. for ideas.
Even technically the work is amazing. The weavers who made it were thoroughly experienced and it is a tragedy that nothing else from the workshop has survived.
Equally impressive is the vision of the designer who endowed St. John with typical medieval imagination of a literal kind and portrayed him contemplating with tranquil wonder all the extraordinary happenings of the Apocalypse. In it can be traced with detailed precision the incidents of the strange horsemen riding dream chargers to hunt down their fantastic quarry, the seven-headed beast rising from its weird sea, to mention only two of nearly a hundred different intricate actions. Over all the earthly scenes terror broods which contrast severely with the serenity of heaven.
The colours used are reduced to about twenty and arc dominated by bright 'ed, indigo blue, vivid yellow and madder. For grandeur and simplicity and power there is no tapestry since to compare with it. Charm and decoration soon took the place of the stark method employed here of telling a tale.
Iris Conlay St. John at the feet of Christ: a detail from the Apocalypse tapestry by Nicolas Bataille and Jean de Bruges in Angers Cathedral (late 14th century).