Conserving the King Arthur tapestry – Met Museum
The great museums of the world employ specialists who do jobs the rest of us know nothing about. I can’t imagine how one gets to be a conservator of medieval textiles and how much history, technology and patience one needs to work on these incredibly fragile cloths.
Here is a chance to follow the conservation treatment of “King Arthur” from the Nine Heroes Tapestries series, among the oldest in The Met Museum’s collection.
The Nine Heroes Tapestries, representing the Hebrew heroes: Joshua, David, Judas Maccabeus, the Christian heroes: Charlemagne, Arthur, and Godfrey of Boullion, and the pagan heroes: Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar, are thought to have been made around 1385 by Nicolas Bataille. It is not positive that Bataille is the artist; however, another set of tapestries, the Apocalypse Tapestries in Angers, France, made by Bataille shares the same characteristics as the Nine Heroes.
The inspiration for the Nine Heroes Tapestries came from a poem written by Jacques de Longuyon in 1310. The poem’s protagonist, Porus, is described as being more courageous than the nine great heroes of history. Eventually, the representation of these men soon appeared everywhere as the poem’s story grew in popularity.
This tapestry first came into The Met’s collection in 1949 and hasn’t been touched since then for fear of damange. Watch as these conservators – Kathrin Colburn, Kisook Suh, Anna Szalecki, Janina Poskrobko – clean, stabilize, and reweave fragile areas of the work, finally reinstalling it at The Cloisters in New York where it is now on view.