Amazing medieval quilts.

After yesterdays post there was  a lot of interest in the 14th century Tristan quilt. I added some photos to FB, but I thought it might be nice to share it further on the blog.

The Tristan Quilt, sometimes called the Tristan and Isolde Quilt, is one of the earliest surviving quilts in the world. Depicting scenes from the story of Tristan and Isolde, an influential romance and tragedy, it was made in Sicily during the second half of the 13th century. There are at least two sections of the quilt, one of which is displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum's new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, and the other in the Bargello in Florence. A third quilt, also depicting Tristan and Isolde, but not thought to be part of the V&A and Bargello examples, is held in private hands. The Tristan Quilts are the only known surviving examples of medieval quilts.

ca. 1360-1400 (made)

Unknown (production)

Materials and Techniques:
Linen quilted and padded with cotton wadding with outlines in brown and white linen thread.

I think its stunning, I wonder who made it?

The fabric is linen of course and the the thread is probably Linen too. You can see the cotton batting through the holes.

The images and particularly the hands remind me of the Bayeux Tapestry.
A woman, Silvana Valninni has made a reproduction of the quilts but I can't find any images.

Francine Nicolle also led a team of women to re-create the quilt and it was shown at the V&A in 2009

There are fabulous images at. Tristan quilt, images google.

However, I found another intresting quilt in the V&A at the same time I saw this quilt.

Its also a Tristan hanging and this one is appliqued.

Appliqué or applied work is a simple, rapid and relatively cheap method of obtaining a decorative effect by stitching cloth pieces to a contrasting ground. Before tapestries were widely available, wall-hangings were often made in this way. Documents tell us that it was widely used for quick effect, or in less affluent areas of society.

This example is ornamented with 22 scenes from the Tristan legend. The figures are wearing contemporary fashions, the men with short fashionable doublets and shoes with long pointed toes. The style is unsophisticated but effective. The telling of a story in images was important at a time of low literacy and limited entertainment.
The woollen motifs on a contrasting woollen ground are edged with the remains of narrow gilded leather strips. Many of these hangings probably employed less-worn areas of used clothing; the recycling of expensive materials was common practice in the Middle Ages.

Its fascinating that there is a piece of wool at the edge of the applique and the wool is couched right on the edge of the image.

I love the red wool background. It was probably dyed by Madder.


This quilt or hanging was made in the 1300's.

Stunning stunning.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Katherine says:

    Thank you for showing us these beautiful quilts. It is truly amazing to see textiles that have survived for so long.
    Your post also made me think of applique from a perspective I would never have thought of – i.e. perhaps being more affordable for less affluent folk or not even being able to obtain or afford threads for tapestries.

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