Friday 25 November 2011

The Tapestry Never Lies

Before photography, visual records of historical events could be covered by a tapestry. Perhaps the most celebrated, is the Bayeux Tapestry, knocked up to chronicle the shenanigans leading up to the Battle of Hastings.
Fig. 1a
Similar to photography, where it’s been possible to airbrush people from history, tapestry makers have been able to unpick people from history. But the similarities don’t stop there. The Bayeux Tapestry is a kind of haberdasher’s documentary. In one scene, we see someone doing that thing you do when you want to be hilarious and original at the same time by posing for a shot with two fingers behind somebody else’s head (fig. 1a).  (CLICK ON 'Read more' LINK, BELOW)

There he is, Herbert of Bosham, or somebody doing the very same thing to somebody else like the Venerable Bede (fig. 1b).
Fig. 1b

In another scene we see a photo finish (fig. 2), though it appears fairly clear which horse has won. Certainly in this day and age, a confident call at the stewards' enquiry.
Fig. 2
The paparazzi of course would have been quite different. Gaggles of seamstresses at the ready outside the abbey ready to stitch at the drop of a hat the Archbishop of Canterbury staggering out after a night on the Communion plonk. But then, skip a few scenes and we’re again struck by the similarities between photography and tapestry. We see Harold of England with an arrow jammed in his socket (fig. 3). Obviously sewn later on in the battle after nightfall. A clear case of red-eye.
Fig. 3

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