Mysterious Victorian tapestry may have very special connection

Posted on 15/12/2020 in Press Coverage

A unique Victorian tapestry has sparked debate among fascinated vintage textile experts – and could sell for thousands of pounds at auction.

The fine tapestry, which is due to be sold by Hansons in the new year with a guide price of £6,000-£12,000, features a rich array of exotic animals, birds, fruit and trees with a man and woman at its centre. An early form of Greek script above the couple provides a Biblical quote from Genesis meaning, ‘we come from dust and we return to dust’.

The special commission would have taken a team of skilled embroiderers in England or France months to make using miles and miles of thread. The colours have faded over time as vegetable dyes were used. This helps to date the piece to circa 1875-1890.

The conundrum facing experts is identifying whether the tapestry is connected to William Morris (1834-1896). The renowned British textile designer, poet and novelist was a major contributor to the revival of traditional British textile arts and methods of production.

Wealthy families commissioned Morris to design tapestries which were then produced by embroiderers at the Royal School of Needlework. This tapestry demonstrates such skill and artistry it would have been made at such a school. However, no records are available to check this.

Nevertheless, clues pointing to Morris abound. An eco-warrior of his day, he favoured vegetable dyes, plus the symmetry, style and detail of the design echo his work. Some experts have even commented that the woman on the tapestry resembles Morris’s wife, Jane, his muse.

The tapestry, which was uncovered in Nottingham, originally went to Kenya. When the estate where it was displayed was sold off in the 1960s, the current vendors, who were living in Kenya at the time, purchased it.

They moved back to the UK and the tapestry has adorned homes in the Midlands ever since. Our research continues and, if confirmed as a William Morris commission, its current auction estimate could soar to tens of thousands of pounds.

Fine textiles are invited for our 2021 auctions and a Fine Textiles Auction will be held on December 16. Catalogue To arrange a free valuation of vintage/antique textiles, email [email protected].