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Wednesday Art: Baldishol Tapestry

Baldishol tapestry replica (Wikipedia / Frode Inge Helland).

This brightly coloured tapestry is a replica of the Norwegian Baldisholteppet. You may have heard of it, or read about it in the Tapestries series. Presumably, this piece is part of a larger, calendar tapestry. This piece that survived history, shows two men each representing a month of the year.

History

Workers dismantled the wooden church on Baldishol farm in 1879. Under the floor, they found this piece of tapestry. A local lady subsequently bought it at auction. She washed it and then correctly guessed its significance. She took the tapestry to a local museum where it has remained ever since. Today, the tapestry, measuring 118 by 203cm, is on display at the National Museum in Oslo.

Similarities

The Baldishol is indebted to European traditions in art and weaving. For one, its weaving style resembles that of the Halberstadt tapestries. These are German weaves in the pre-Gobelin style and date to the same period as Baldishol. (France will be famous for its Gobelin tapestries during the High Middle Ages, by the way).

Bayeux tapestry

Drag the slider left and right to compare the knights of the Baldishol with the Bayeux (right, Wikipedia).

The French connection is clear in the Baldishol’s Romanesque design. As you can see, the two men closely resemble the men as seen on the Bayeux tapestry. Both tapestries indeed roughly date to the same period: the Bayeux to 1077, the year of the consecration of the cathedral. And the Baldishol between 1040 and 1190. The Halberstadts, to complete this comparison, date to the turn of the eleventh century.

Origin?

What is the Baldishol’s origin, then? There are no further stylistic similarities with the Halberstadt. The narrative design allows for a detailed comparison to the Anglo-Normand culture. In particular, the shield of the knight stands out. This is not a Viking round shield as one might expect. Rather, this kite-like shield is known from the Anglo-Normands. Yet, the knight’s armous is outdated in France at the time the Baldishol is made. But perhaps it is still stylish in Norway? Or did the artist indeed mean to display an ‘archaic’ armour?

Despite the mix of German and Anglo-Normand influences, the heraldry colours on the tapestry are the same colours associated with early Norwegian heraldry. Making the Baldishol an intriguing mix of local and foreign influences.

See the National Museum in Oslo.
Read Store Norske Leksikon [Norwegian language]
See the Bayeux Museum for more on the Bayeux tapestry.
For the technical weaving details, see Norwegian Textile Letter.
A fine overview of the styles and techniques on Absolute Tapestry.

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