Medieval Life and Leisure in the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries Hardcover – 31 Oct 2002
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About the Author
Linda Woolley is a Curator in the V&A's Department of Furniture, Textiles and Dress. She has researched and lectured extensively in the field of fashionable dress. She is co-author of Shoes, published by V&A Publications in 1999.
Top Customer Reviews
The text contains lots of useful information and history about the clothes and events described.
All in all a wonderful book.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The 2002 book does not have any footnotes for statements about medieval life, although it does have some books listed for "Further Reading;" most of which I recognize as very reliable sources.
Many close ups repeated in the book, rather than having a fresh image
Not many 'other works' photos to compare.
Lots of great close-ups
One large fold-out per tapestry with good color and detail
Image of the back of one tapestry showing the much more technicolor hues before fading
Some comparison with other tapestries, and other things known about noble lifestyle
Talks about restoration but doesn't 'map out' which parts are modern and thus not reliable as documentation (possibly these areas are small enough not to worry about?)
Attention to courtly fashion, fabrics, furs, hats, etc.
Discussion of dating of works; tapestry technique
Discussion of practical details of hunting as shown in the tapestries
Two pictures of similar surviving fancy cloth for clothing
About the 1971 Book:
About half of the detail photos of the tapestries are in b&w.
Photos are sharp and detailed; as good as the 2002 book.
Lots of photos of similar works, including several thought to be from the same "cartoon" and by the same workshop as these four, but with different details; thorough discussion.
Much more extensive bibliography, but no specific footnotes either.
More extensive citations of medieval estate inventories that might be referencing the tapestries.
Much of the "Pro" section from the 2002 book applies here re: analysis of hunting, clothing, technique.
Either book is a very useful one for costumers looking for good contemporary images of medieval clothing. More specific footnoting and quotes would be even better. Overall, the 2002 book seems to be an updated version of the 1971 book (but without much of the compare-and-contrast different works) including recent scholarship on the tapestries. I encourage anyone interested in these tapestries to get the new book, although fanatics will want both.
I am on a real kick to study Bess of Hardwick, the likeliest person to have purchased the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries in the 1590's, because she was a great embroiderer, a huge patron of the arts to make her legacy Hardwick Hall particularly outstanding...and she knew Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots intimately.
Bess was born 5 years before and died 5 years after Queen Elizabeth for whom she was a Lady of the Bedchamber--the highest honor for a woman. Bess came from humble, though noble, beginnings but perfected the practice of "marrying up" to become the 2nd richest woman in England, Elizabeth, of course, being the richest. The key to Bess's success was her second husband, William Cavendish throwing all custom to the wind and teaching her how to be wealthy: keep daily track of every pound received and of every penny spent. She developed a keen intelligence for the good bargain: which lands to purchase and rent out, great treasures to acquire or have made. She kept outliving her husbands and lucked out with the final one: George Talbot the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury. George was one of Elizabeth's closest advisors and when she had the annoyance of dealing with Mary Stuart, she appointed stalwart George to take care of her. (When Mary had escaped her nobles, she fled to England. Being Elizabeth's cousin [once removed], Mary was 2nd in line to Elizabeth's throne and many an Englishman would have preferred a Catholic monarch to the bastard child of a conniving Anne Boleyn and desperate Henry VIII.) George was forced to invite Mary and her entire "court" of 60 people into his various great houses; he was her jailor but the pretence was that she was his guest. Elizabeth did not hold up her end of the bargain: she had agreed to reimburse George for all Mary's expenses but she never did...and the extravagant Scottish court almost ruined him. Over the 15 years he kept Mary, he more and more drastically cut off her expenses till she got down to the "4 Maries," her ladies since she was a child. In the meantime, Bess and Mary did a lot of embroidery and Mary had fabric, fibers and patterns imported from France. Part of Mary's downfall was secret messages she had smuggled out to supporters in kegs of ale; but she also embroidered fatal messages to supporters and lovers, most notably the Duke of Norfolk who was executed before she was for his treasonous plot to rescue and marry Mary and put her on the throne after dispatching Elizabeth.
I give all this background because these tapestries are exceedingly rare and attest to Bess of Hardwick's amazing foresight to commission and lovingly preserve great pieces of remarkable textiles. Perhaps most importantly, Bess and William Cavendish are the progenitors of the Dukes of Devonshire whose enormous homes and lands are at Chatsworth, one the biggest touring sites in England. I have also recently read about the Unicorn Tapestries in the Metropolitan Museum which are from the same time period and have the same type of medieval figures and hunts portrayed. For more information on these, please see:
The Unicorn Tapestries in The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Bess of Hardwick: Empire Builder
Bess of Hardwick: Portrait of an Elizabethan Dynast
Elizabethan Treasures: The Hardwick Hall Textiles
Round About Chatsworth
Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens
The needlework of Mary Queen of Scots
Emblems for a Queen: The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots
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