THE BALDISHOL TAPESTRY
KUNSTINDUSTRIMUSEET (The museum of applied arts),Oslo,Norway
The Baldishol tapestry is from the Baldishol church in Hedmark, Norway. It came to light after the demolition of the Baldishol church in the late 1870s. The tapestry looked like tattered old rags , covered in the dirt from its final use - protecting the feet of the church sexton from drafts.
The tapestry is a wall hanging. It is carbon dated to between 1040 - 1190. The dating fitting with style and technique known at the time.
The fragment is believed to show the months of April and May. It's a fragment of a longer tapestry. Height : 118 cm (weave width), surviving length : 203 cm. Probable length of the original tapestry is thought to be about 12 m.
The Baldishol tapestry differs from surviving tapestries on the continent in having a wool warp.The warp is of undyed white wool. The weft is made of thin red,yellow,green,dark blue and medium blue wool ,with a white linen thread for the white segments.
The robust character of the tapestry gives a provincial impression. Despite the nativity of the tapestry, it is a professional piece of work where the possibilities of the technique is utilized well. It's not believed to be probable that the Baldishol tapestry was made in one of the more centralized workshops on the mainland of Europe. Tapestry weaving is known from fragments in the Oseberg ship and from Birka. Osberg contained a number of tapestries, all though not on the scale of the Baldishol tapestry.
It's the only surviving early medieval tapestry believed to be of nordic origin. All though there is some dispute. France or England is thought to be another possible origin by some archeologists. Others believe it to be of nordic origin due to the similarities with the tree on the Hylestadportal and the type of kirtle that can be seen on a number of nordic pictures.
It's uncertain when this type of kirtle was first used in the nordic countries. Some of the male figures on the Oseberg tapestries and ornamented stones from Gotland seems to be dressed in the same type of kirtle. The rider in full equipment is similar to depictions in the Bayeux tapestry. The chain mail, helmet and shield can be dated to the 12thC , but no later. Likewise for the saddle and spurs.
The birds in the trees are similar to birds in the Bayeux tapestry.
Tapestries with patterns are woven from the back side, giving the weaver a mirrored pattern.On the Baldishol tapestry, the rider is turned the wrong way around. leaving him with his shield on the right instead of the left arm. The letters in the tapestry are turned both "the wrong and the right" way around.
On a more personal note ,no photo I have ever seen does this tapestry fragment justice. It looks so flat and lifeless in the photos and on postcards. Despite its age, the colors are still fairly vibrant. The dark blue, bordering on royal blue is the least faded color.It still shines in some parts of the tapestry. The yellow is a light mustard/oker. The lighter blue is a slightly grayish medium blue. The red and green seems to have faded a bit. The white segments are linen thread. Which in itself is quite rare in surviving to this date.
A look at the different aspects of the tapestry including the weaving technique with a very good detail shot (accurate colors)
The Bayeux Tapestry
Primary source for the battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror, Harold II and the Norman conquest
Att datera textilier
Margareta Nockert & Göran Possnert
The woven coverlets of Norway