RESPONSE to The Bayeux Tapestry; the origins

4 Sep


            When looking through the meters of embroidered history on ancient linen, I begin to wonder what is truth and what is myth? As if the borders where calling me to question the reality stitched before my eyes. As history, recalling what was said in class “is made by those who win”, and those who win are not always the most sincere. I want to focus this response on artistic credit, who “won” in this case, and who is given the credit? I can’t help but wonder, how much do we genuinely know, more than how much are our minds being fed?

          The matter of importance is that the work has survived through out many eras, illustrating numerous truths to us, about lifestyle within a context in time. Who commissioned and created it, is not as crucial as what the work has to say. Regardless I do find it significant for this matter to receive a degree of contemplation.

     What I intend to highlight is the origin of the tapestry, which actually is not a tapestry by definition, but more of an embroidered hanging. Having that clear one may also observe what French legends say. Word has it that the Bayeux Tapestry was actually commissioned and created by Queen Matilda, William’s Wife. There are many elements that make me want to believe this legend, legends are legends for a reason. The work manifests itself through the labor of women’s needles; I wouldn’t be surprised if an educated woman of the time had commissioned the work.

       Considering the materials used to elaborate this work, thread, needles, and fabric. Stereotypically speaking these materials and crafts were for the most part a woman’s activity, certainly with vast exceptions. An embroidered fabric may be rather personal, and used as tokens of sentimental value. I might be overanalyzing now, but taking for example World War I, French women would send embroidered post cards to their lovers and brothers who were off at war. It seems rational, that if Queen Matilda had commissioned something for her husband, it would aim for a symbolic token.

       Perhaps some ideas are fresh in my mind regarding feminism and the arts, as recently such has influenced me in other readings. Or that just last night I watched a film on Joan of Arc.  Triggering a dislike for manipulation of individuals for self-benefit by both the church and the state of the time, which I find grotesque, so indeed I may sound somewhat bias.

     Though historical writings first mention the Tapestry in the inventory of the Bayeux Cathedral in 1476. “It is reported by Wace and Odericus Vitalis that, after William’s death, dishonest servants looted hanging from his palace at Rouen; and it is interesting to note that at the time of William’s death, Bishop Odo was actually imprisoned at Rouen. As he was immediately released, and even attended Williams funeral, might he not – in the general confusion- have connived at the Tapestry being stolen from the castle at Rouen so that he could have in Bayeux?”(1)

      So much left unknown, facts only lead me to speculation. As the final stitches of the tapestry that have been lost to deterioration, other figures in the work remain a mystery. Like the undefined characters such as Elfygy and her identity, will remain nothing but questions and possible suggestions of what could be truth. When I look at those borders, mythical creatures accompanied by those that are real, it makes me wonder if that was a conscious comment on history and its tales, but that too will remain nothing but a ponder.

-Nicole Matta Santos


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