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Bayeux Tapestry - Academia

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Description of the Bayeux tapestry
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    The Bayeux Tapestry: Author, Art and Allegory

    In the year of grace 1066, the Lord, the ruler,

    brought to fulfilment what He had long planned for

    the English people: He delivered them up to be

    destroyed by the violent and cunning Norman race.

    Henry of Huntington1

    The Bayeux Tapestry is one of the most immediately recognisable, and most complex sources of

    European history. It is an artwork that illustrates the Norman Conquest of England and the causes of,

    and justification for this action. In this it is a product of the period in which it was made and the

    location of its conception, reflecting the religious and political concerns of Latin Christian Normandy

    in the late 11th century. Yet to understand the full meaning of the Tapestry, it must be read beyond

    the layer of the overarching narrative. Allegory, analogy and imagery used by the collaborators of the

    work have given it complexity beyond a simple chronology of events. In part the complexity and layers

    of allegory within the Tapestry arise from the authorship of the piece. No single author can be

    attributed to the creation of the Tapestry, it was a collaboration of patron, designer and artisan. Each

    party had their own contributions that can be teased out from the often ambiguous motifs of the

    Tapestry. Its visual nature, as a piece of textile art, allowed its authors to adapt symbolic imagery to

    convey narrative tropes, familiar to a receptive, 11th century audience. The use of embroidery as

    narrative was not unique in its time, and the patron of the Tapestry made a conscious decision to

    depict the story of the Conquest in this manner. Nonetheless, the Tapestry is unique in form as a

    surviving history of the Conquest, though the narrative and themes of the Tapestry reflect those of

    other, near-contemporaneous, literary sources relating the story. In common with these, the Tapestry

    reflects a dual nature of religious allegory embedded in political actuality that is common in medieval

    sources, where religion and politics are inextricably entwined. Within this complex tapestry of author,

    form and narrative, it is possible to identify the motives for the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry, and

    each in turn must be examined.

    The Bayeux Tapestry was not created to record the political history of Normandy and England from

    1064-1066. Neither was it was created to provide an official Norman account of the Conquest. It was

    created to satisfy its patron.2 This does not preclude the Tapestrys usefulness as a Norman history of

    the Conquest, however, as per Frank Stentons oft quoted declaration, the designer ... could do no

    other than follow the tale most acceptable to his patron.3 This creates an interesting dichotomy of

    authorship. The patron commissioned the Tapestry, but did not create it. The subtleties of designer

    and artisan add depth and expression to the narrative, yet the interests of the patron informed the

    Tapestrys creation and the narrative it wove. The commissioning of the Bayeux Tapestry has been

    attributed to Odo of Bayeux, William of Normandys brother.4 This provenance would mean the

    1 Henry of Huntington, The History of the English People 1000-1154, ed. and trans. D. Greenway, Oxford, 2002, p. 24. 2 J. Bard McNulty, The Narrative Art of the Bayeux Tapestry Master, New York, 1989, pp. 59 60.3 Frank Stenton, Historical Background, in The Bayeux Tapestry: A Comprehensive Survey, ed. Frank Stenton, London,

    1957, p. 9.4 N.P. Brooks and H.E. Walker, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bayeux Tapestry, in The Study of the Bayeux

    Tapestry, ed. Richard Gameson, Woodbridge, 1997, pp. 67 - 71; Carola Hicks, The Bayeux Tapestry: The Life Story of aMasterpiece, London, 2006, pp. 22 27; Michael Lewis, Questioning the archaeological authority of the Bayeux

    Matthew Firth, 2014

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    Tapestry was made within memory of the Conquest, and is one of the earliest sources recording the

    Norman invasion of England.

    Without direct evidence for the authorship of the Tapestry, the identification of its patron needs to

    be ascertained from the narrative of the Tapestry itself. A brief study of the case for Odo of Bayeux

    commissioning the Tapestry will begin unravelling the motives for the Tapestrys creation. The

    argument rests upon the fact that the Tapestry assigns him a role within the overall narrative that

    exceeds his role in other accounts of the Conquest, and provides undue prominence in individual

    scenes.5 The evidence is compelling. Odo makes four appearances in the tapestry and is named three

    times in the inscriptions.6 Two appearances are at significant points in the narrative: the

    commissioning of the Norman fleet (scene 15), and the rallying of the troops at the Battle of Hastings

    (29).7 Whilst this prominence is unlikely, it can be justified by Odos station as bishop, vassal and

    brother to Duke William. This cannot be said of four minor characters named in the Tapestry of which

    three were vassals of Odo.8 Significantly these men do not feature in any chronicles of the event, and

    Odo is not given prominence in other early records of the Conquest. Most notably, the Kentish monk

    Eadmer makes no mention of Odo in his Historia Novorum.9 Whilst paralleling the moralistic themes

    of the Tapestry, Historia Novorum is Anglo-Saxon in tone and either slighted Odo, or Odos

    contributions to the Conquest were not sufficient to warrant note outside Norman sources.10 The

    Bayeux Tapestry had definitive purpose in providing prominence to Odo and his men. It was created

    for display at Odos cathedral in Bayeux, and was designed to appeal to an audience that was to view

    the Tapestry and remember and recognise the contribution of its leaders to the Conquest.11

    Scene 15: Odo depicted at the Scene 29: Odo rallying the troops. commissioning of the Norman fleet.

    Tapestry, Cultural and Social History, 7, no. 4, 2010, pp. 467 468; McNulty, Narrative Art,p. 59 77; Stenton, Historical Background, pp. 9 11.

    5 Lewis, Questioning the Archaeological Authority, p. 467. 6 Hicks, The Bayeux Tapestry, pp. 22 23. 7 Britains Bayeux Tapestry, Museum of Reading, Berkshire, 2011, (scenes 15 and 29),

    , accessed 20th August, 2014. 8 David J. Bernstein, The Mystery of the Bayeux Tapestry, London, 1986, pp. 30 36; Lewis, Questioning the Archaeological

    Authority, p. 467. 9 Eadmer, A History of Recent Events in England: Historia Novorum in Anglia, trans. Geoffrey Bosanquet, London, 1964. 10 Lucien Mussett, The Bayeux Tapestry, Woodbridge, 2005, pp. 80 81. 11 Brooks and Walker, Authority and Interpretation, p. 69.

    Matthew Firth, 2014

  • 3

    It is significant to the design of the Tapestry that it was commissioned to be displayed in Bayeux

    Cathedral. In addition to providing prominence to the Bishop of Bayeux, the Tapestry provides

    prominence to Bayeux itself. One of the key events preceding the Conquest was the swearing of an

    oath by Harold Godwinson to Duke William, pledging his support for Williams claim to the English

    throne. However Harold went on to claim the English throne, despite his oath, giving the Normans

    the moral justification to mount the expedition to England. The idea that the Normans were a tool of

    Gods retribution on a perjurious usurper is attested in numerous contemporary sources, and hinges

    on Harolds oath. Aedmer, who could be expected to support the Anglo-Saxon claim to the throne,

    casts the Norman victory as an indictment of Harolds perjury, the miraculous intervention of God,

    who by punishing Harolds wicked perjury shewed that He is not a God that hath any pleasure in

    wickedness.12 The Norman chroniclers, William of Jumieges and William of Poitiers, also make the

    oath central to their histories and promote the allegory of the Conquest as righteous judgement.13

    The Tapestry is part of the same narrative tradition, depicting Harold taking an oath to William in

    Bayeux, over the holy relics held by the cathedral (11).14 The only chronicler to place the oath at

    Bayeux was Wace, writing 100 years later in his role as a canon of Bayeux Cathedral.15 William of

    Poitiers, however, places the oath at Bonneville, located within his own diocese,16 whilst the later

    historian Orderic Vitalis, who was openly critical of Odo, places the oath at the Norman capital of

    Rouen.17 The location of the oath is unimportant to the moral allegory of the Tapesty, and even to

    the literal outcome of the Conquest. Each author was using this aspect of the narrative to their own

    provincial objectives, in the case of the Tapestry, providing prominence to Bayeux and its bishop. Odo

    is placed in the centre of momentous events, the pivotal moment of the narrative centring on his

    cathedral, and the home of the Tapestry.

    Scene 11: Harold swears an oath to William over the sacred relics at Bayeux Cathedral.

    Whilst the creation of the Tapestry is in part an attempt by its patron to show the justice of the Norman

    cause, and his central role in the events, the contributions of designer and artisan cannot be

    12 Eadmer, Historia Novorum in Anglia, p. 9. 13 N.J Higham, Harold Godwinesson: The Construction of Kingship, in King Harold II and the Bayeux Tapestry, ed. Gale

    Owen-Crocker, Woodbridge, 2011, pp. 19 20. 14 Britains Bayeux Tapestry (scene 11). 15 Hicks, The Bayeux Tapestry, p. 20; Wace, Roman de Rou, trans. Elisabeth Van Houts, Woodbridge, 2004, p. 154. 16 Musset, The Bayeux Tapestry, pp. 146 148; William of Poitiers, Gesta Guillelmi, eds. & trans. R.H.C. Davies and

    Marjorie Chibnall, Oxford, 1998, p. 72. 17 Hicks, The Bayeux Tapestry, pp. 20 23; Orderic Vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy, trans. T.

    Forester, London, 1853, pp. 458 459.

    Matthew Firth, 2014

  • 4

    overlooked. Factors such as orthography, letter form and the expertise available indicate that the

    creators were English, likely within Odos post-conquest acquisition, the Earldom of Kent.18 This

    deepens the dichotomy of authorship. In creating a narrative artwork to satisfy their commission, we

    see the hands of the Tapestrys creators in the aspects of the narrative that did not directly benefit its

    patron. Lucien Musset notes that the Tapestry passes over details recorded elsewhere that would

    have demonstrated the morality of the Normans.19 The narrative perpetuates the Norman justification

    of the Conquest, however the designer did not deviate from the main history in order to pontificate

    upon the virtues of the victors. Likewise the narrative does not tip towards individual heroism and

    romance.20 Brooks and Walker describe the inscriptions on the Tapestry as studiously non-

    committal21 and Gale Owen-Crocker notes that the Tapestry depicts Harold as heroic but morally

    flawed.22 Its English authors were embroidering to satisfy their patron, but they were not going to do

    so at the cost of English dignity. Created to present a Norman view of the conquest, yet depicting the

    conquered and conquerors as men of merit and valour, the Tapestry provides a vital link between the

    views of both peoples.

    Turning from the dichotomy of purpose in authorship, to the form of the Tapestry, the embroidery

    commissioned by Odo was not unique. Remnants of similar artworks have been found in the

    Scandinavian countries. Sweden, Norway and Iceland all preserve embroidery fragments dating

    between 900 - 1200.23 Literary evidence also point to the existence of such narrative embroideries,

    the Liber Eliensis of Ely cathedral in the 12th century mentions the bequethal of a hanging woven

    upon and embroidered with the deeds of [Byhrtnoth] and, in a separate event, notes the theft of a

    very valuable and famous hanging from the cathedral by rival monks.24 Lucien Musset and Lewis

    Thorpe have both conjectured that, despite the lack of evidence, a tradition of narrative textiles was

    likely common throughout Western Europe.25 This assumption, however, glosses over the fact that

    aside from the Tapestry, the extant physical examples are exclusively Scandinavian. The evidence

    points to a tradition of narrative embroidery that was endemic to the Scandinavian world. England

    had been a part of the Scandinavian world for over a century prior to the Conquest, with an

    increasingly Anglo-Norse population ruled by Scandinavian kings prior to the start of the Tapestrys

    narrative. Likewise, the Duchy of Normandy had significant Scandinavian influence in its genesis. With

    Norman and Anglo-Norse authors, the decision to tell the history of the Conquest through textile art

    would not have been unusual. It is from this cultural tradition that the Tapestry was born.

    18 Hicks, The Bayeux Tapestry, p. 23; Suzanne Lewis, The Rhetoric of Power in the Bayeux Tapestry, Cambridge, 1999, p. 10;

    Lewis Thorpe (ed.), The Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman Invasion, London, 1973, p. 58. 19 Musset, The Bayeux Tapestry, pp. 32 33. 20 Ibid, p. 33. 21 Brooks & Walker, Authority and Interpretation, p. 73. 22 Owen-Crocker, Gale Hunger for England: Ambition and Appetite in the Bayeux Tapestry, English Studies, 93, no. 5, 2012,

    p. 540. 23 Musset, The Bayeux Tapestry, pp. 20 22; Thorpe (ed.), The Bayeux Tapestry, p. 57; UNESCO. Memory of the World

    Register: Bayeux Tapestry, Nomination Form, N. 2006-44. 2007, p.4, , accessed 15th August 2014.

    24 Liber Eliensis, trans. Janet Fairweather, Woodbridge, 2005, pp. 163, 266. 25 Musset, The Bayeux Tapestry, pp. 22 24; Thorpe (ed.), The Bayeux Tapestry, p. 57.

    Matthew Firth, 2014

  • 5

    The decision to use a textile medium to depict the events of the Conquest is related to audience. Odo

    likely commissioned the Tapestry for display at Bayeux cathedral in time for its consecration in 1077.26

    The display of the tapestry in a public setting enabled the literal and allegorical narrative of the

    Conquest to be conveyed to an illiterate audience. The Tapestry has been compared to oral history in

    its ability to reach a larger audience, and relay both the narrative and the implications of the Conquest

    more immediately than written chronicles.27 Indeed, the Tapestry is likely to have facilitated an oral

    tradition. Whilst the unique orthography of the Tapestrys Kentish designer and creators resulted in

    a distinctly English Latin text, it would still have allowed the Bayeux clerics to interpret the depicted

    events. Utilising the Latin text, the churchmen would have been able to provide a narrative to

    accompany the pictorial representations of the Tapestry for visiting pilgrims.28 Surely a treasure of

    Bayeux in its own right, the Tapestrys depiction of Harolds oath (11) will have drawn the pilgrims

    attention to the significance of the relics they had come to see.29 Meanwhile, the parishioners of

    Bayeux would have a constant reminder of the primacy of their bishop, cathedral and relics in grand

    political events. In creating the Tapestry, its authors distinctly targeted an audience separate from

    the chronicles recording the events of 1066. Whilst chronicles were aimed at a literate, educated

    audience, the Tapestry used established traditions of iconography to recount events to an audience

    conditioned to understand the underlying religious, visual motifs of the embroidery.30

    Any study of the rich imagery the designers of the Bayeux Tapestry employed does well to recall the

    idiom coined by the great scholar of medieval art, Emile Mle: the old craftsmen were never so subtle

    as their modern interpreters.31 The Tapestry authors used imagery to convey ideas and individual

    components of the narrative through devices of allegory and analogy. Already rich in emblematic

    meaning, it is easy to find allegory where the authors intended none.32 This has led to wide ranging

    interpretation of scenes within the narrative.

    In searching for meaning in the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry, it is important to read the tapestry as

    an ensemble: border, text and narrative scene together.33 It is in the narrative that the concerns of

    author and the peculiarities of the medium find the fullest expression. The designer of the Tapestry

    has created a history of the Conquest that assigns roles to Odo, his vassals and his cathedral,

    appropriate to the patronage, audience and location of the Tapestry. The authors have not, however,

    neglected the narrative arc of political and moral history. The dual interests of the Tapestrys patron

    as both religious figure and Norman partisan provided the allegory we have already noted Gods

    retribution upon a usurper. The weaving of this moral allegory throughout the Tapestry demonstrates

    the clerical training of the authors. Trained to read scripture, clerics were taught to interpret events

    26 Bernstein, The Mystery of the Bayeux Tapestry, London, 1986, pp. 28 29; Hicks, The Bayeux Tapestry, pp. 22 23. 27 Shirley Ann Brown, The Bear, Harold and the Tapestry, in King Harold II and the Bayeux Tapestry, ed. Gale Owen-

    Crocker, Woodbridge, 2005, pp. 152-154. 28 Suzanne Lewis, The Rhetoric of Power in the Bayeux Tapesty, Cambridge, 1999, pp. 11-12. 29 Britains Bayeux Tapestry (scene 11); Brooks & Walker, Authority and Interpretation, p. 69; Musset, The Bayeux

    Tapestry, pp. 150 152. 30 Ibid, pp. 14 -15. 31 Emile Male Religious Art in France XIII Century: A Study in Medieval Iconography and its Sources of Inspiration, trans.

    Dora Nussey, 3rd edn., London, 1913, p. 47. 32 McNulty, Narrative Art, pp. 23 24. 33 Ibid., p. 23.

    Matthew Firth, 2014

  • 6

    in a religious and moralistic light.34 The designer was literate with religious interpretation of history,

    and literate with the language of the church: the anglicised Latin text indicating the designer was

    almost certainly an English cleric. It is likely the designer provided an outline of text, events and figures

    on the linen that was to become the Tapestry before the artisans went to work.35

    The visual representations of the Tapestry have three readily accessible layers of narrative. The often

    terse Latin inscriptions provides a basic narrative that needs to be located within the larger story.36

    This story is provided by the main pictorial plates which provide the full narrative of the events of the

    Conquest, imbued with allegory appropriate to a Norman, Christian audience. Finally the borders

    provide analogy and depth of message to the narrative, either commenting on individual scenes, or

    alternatively providing general commentary on the overarching moral theme.37

    A closer look at scene 6 will show the manner in which these layers are used to develop the narrative:

    Harold is in the custody of Guy of Ponthieu, who receives word from Duke William to send Harold to

    him.38 The brief Latin inscription states Here a messenger comes to Duke William; Here Guy took

    Harold to William, Duke of Normandy.39 The narrative panels give greater detail, the previous scene

    had shown the arrival and capture of Harold in Guys territories. Under the first inscription a

    messenger arrives at Williams court telling him of the event, William then organises Guy to transfer

    Harold to his custody, which is taking place under the second part of the inscription. In the lower

    border, between the two inscriptions there is a deer, caught between two packs of hunting dogs.

    Caught between Guy and William, the deer is analogous of Harolds circumstance.40 The scene needs

    to be read comprising all its component parts to provide the audience a full picture of events.

    Scene 6: William is informed of Harolds capture and organises for Harold to be transferred into his custody.

    The Tapestry is not always so easily read. Ambiguity was a narrative device adopted by the designer

    and his artisans, the dichotomy of authorship allows multiple readings of the Tapestrys iconography.

    This ambiguity is displayed in the authors analogous use of fables throughout the Tapestrys borders.

    34 D.J.A. Matthew, The English Cultivation of Norman History, in England and Normandy in the Middle Ages, ed. D. Bates,

    London, 1994, p.3. 35 Lewis, Questioning the Archaeological Authority, p. 467; Musset, The Bayeux Tapestry, pp. 18 19; Thorpe (ed.), The

    Bayeux Tapestry, pp. 58 59. 36 Lewis, The Rhetoric of Power, p. 13. 37 C.R. Dodwell, The Bayeux Tapestry and the French Secular Epic, in The Study of the Bayeux Tapestry, ed. Richard

    Gameson, Woodbridge, 1997, p. 60; McNulty, Narrative Art, pp. 24 33. 38 Britains Bayeux Tapestry (scene 6). 39 Ibid.: Hic venit nuntius as Wilgelmum Ducem; Hic Wido adduxit Haroldum ad Wilgelmum Normannorum Ducem 40 McNulty, Narrative Art, p.35.

    Matthew Firth, 2014

  • 7

    In scene 2 there is a representative depiction of the fable of the lamb, drinking upstream from the

    wolf.41 In the fable, the wolf tries various rationalisations to justify eating the lamb; however, when

    the lamb rebuts all of these, the wolf simply eats the lamb anyway.42 The moral is that the greedy will

    always take what they want - usually interpreted in line with the Norman condemnation of Harolds

    usurpation. Yet given the English extraction of its creators, the fable could equally be read to be an

    indictment of Williams actions in conquering England. Accustomed to reading allegory in visual

    narrative, conqueror and conquered could read the analogy in the light of their own cultural context.

    Scene 2: Fable of the lamb and the wolf depicted in lower border.

    Contributing to the difficulties in reading the narrative is the very form of the Tapestry. The nature of

    the object necessitates a linear history, however the designer breaks the flow of the story at various

    points. Famously, scene 13 reverses the order of the death and funeral of Edward the Confessor.43

    This is not simply an anomaly, the movement of the characters changes in line with the reversal of

    events. The narrative reversal supports the Norman view of Harold as a usurper by visually separating

    his elevation as king from the internment of the last, legitimate Anglo-Saxon king. The highly ritualised

    scene of procession is moving away from the events of Harolds coronation and the omens after his

    crowning. This funeral scene anticipated Edwards future saintliness, living on in death and not

    following the progression from life to death depicted in other deaths in the Tapestry.44 The

    representation of Edward as a saintly king benefitted both Anglo-Saxon and Norman views of events,

    and the narrative break at his death segregates the Anglo-Saxon past from the Norman future.

    Scene 13: The death and funeral of Edward the Confessor. The scene is in reverse chronological order.

    41 Britains Bayeux Tapestry (scene 2). 42 McNulty, Narrative Art, p.33. 43 Britains Bayeux Tapestry (scene 13). 44 Karkov, Catherine The Ruler Portraits of Anglo-Saxon England, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2004.

    Matthew Firth, 2014

  • 8

    Within this complex tapestry of author, form and narrative, it is possible to identify the motives for

    the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry. The Tapestry was created on the commission of Odo of Bayeux,

    and his designer and artisans wove a story that befitted their patron. Odo is depicted as central to the

    events of the conquest, by his brothers side at key moments in the history. Designed to be central to

    Bayeux cathedral, just as Bayeux cathedral was central to the narrative, the Tapestry would have been

    seen by an audience who would be reminded of the prominence of their leaders in world events and

    in Gods plans. Yet the narrative is not without ambiguity, showing the contrast between Norman

    patron and Anglo-Saxon artisans in its allegory, analogy and imagery. Nonetheless, the Norman

    justification for the Conquest is a consistent refrain throughout the narrative: the Normans were Gods

    tools in visiting his justice upon a wayward and perjurious king.

    Matthew Firth, 2014

  • 9

    Bibliography.

    Primary sources.

    Britains Bayeux Tapestry, Museum of Reading, Berkshire, 2011, , accessed 20th August, 2014.

    Eadmer, A History of Recent Events in England: Historia Novorum in Anglia, trans. Geoffrey Bosanquet, London, Cresset Press, 1964.

    Henry of Huntington, The History of the English People 1000-1154, ed. and trans. D. Greenway, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002.

    Liber Eliensis, trans. Janet Fairweather, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2005.

    Orderic Vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy, trans. T. Forester, London, Henry G. Bohn, 1853.

    Wace, Roman de Rou, trans. Elisabeth Van Houts, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2004.

    William of Jumieges, Gesta Normannorum Ducum, trans. Elisabeth Van Houts, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1995.

    William of Poitiers, Gesta Guillelmi, eds. & trans. R.H.C. Davies and Marjorie Chibnall, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1998.

    Secondary sources.

    Bernstein, David J. The Mystery of the Bayeux Tapestry, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986.

    Carpenter, David The Struggle for Mastery: Britain 1066 1284, London, Allen Lane, 2003.

    (Unit) Chibnall, Marjorie The Normans, Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.

    (Unit) Crouch, David The Normans: History of a Dynasty, London, Hambledon Continuum, 2002.

    (Bookmarked) Foys, Martin; Overbey, Karen and Terkla, Dan (eds.) The Bayeux Tapestry: New Interpretations, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2009.

    Gameson, Richard (ed.) The Study of the Bayeux Tapestry, Woodbridge, Boydell & Brewer, 1997.

    Garnett, George The Norman Conquest: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009.

    Heslop, T.A. Regarding the Spectators of the Bayeux Tapestry: Bishop Odo and his Circle, Art History, 32, no. 2, 2009, pp. 223 249.

    Hicks, Carola The Bayeux Tapestry: The Life Story of a Masterpiece, London, Chatto & Windus, 2006.

    Karkov, Catherine The Ruler Portraits of Anglo-Saxon England, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2004.

    Lewis, Michael Questioning the archaeological authority of the Bayeux Tapestry, Cultural and Social History, 7, no. 4, 2010, pp. 467 - 471.

    Matthew Firth, 2014

  • 10

    (UNE EBook) Lewis, Michael; Overbey, Karen and Terkla, Dan (eds.) The Bayeux Tapestry: New Approaches, Haverton, Oxbow Books, 2011.

    Lawson, M.K. Observations upon a Scene in the Bayeux Tapestry, the Battle of Hastings and the Military System of the Late Anglo-Saxon State, in The Medieval State: Essays Presented to James Campbell, eds. J.R. Maddicott and D.M. Palliser, London, Hambledon Press, 2000, pp. 73 91.

    Lewis, Suzanne The Rhetoric of Power in the Bayeux Tapestry, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999.

    Male, Emile Religious Art in France XIII Century: A Study in Medieval Iconography and its Sources of Inspiration, trans. Dora Nussey, 3rd edn., London, JM Dent and Sons, 1913.

    Matthew, D.J.A. The English Cultivation of Norman History, in England and Normandy in the Middle Ages, ed. D. Bates & A. Curry, London, Hambledon Press, 1994, pp 1-18.

    McNulty, J. Bard The Narrative Art of the Bayeux Tapestry Master, New York, AMS Press, 1989.

    (Bookmarked) Morilo, Stephen The Battle of Hastings: Sources and Interpretations, Woodbridge, Boydell & Brewer, 1996.

    (Book) Morris, Marc The Norman Conquest, London, Random House, 2012.

    Mussett, Lucien The Bayeux Tapestry, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2005.

    Owen-Crocker, Gale Hunger for England: Ambition and Appetite in the Bayeux Tapestry, English Studies, 93, no. 5, 2012, pp. 539 548.

    Owen-Crocker, Gale (ed.) King Harold II and the Bayeux Tapestry, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2011.

    Stenton, Frank (ed.) The Bayeux Tapestry: A Comprehensive Survey, London, Phaidon Press, 1957.

    Thorpe, Lewis (ed.) The Bayeux Tapestry and the Norman Invasion, London, Folio Society, 1973.

    UNESCO. Memory of the World Register: Bayeux Tapestry, Nomination Form, N. 2006-44. 2007, < http://www. unesco.org/new/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/CI/CI/pdf/mow/nomination_forms/44+France+Bayeux+en.pdf >, accessed 15th August 2014.

    Van Houts, Elisabeth Historical Writing, in A Companion to the Anglo-Norman World, ed. C. Harper-Bill & E. van Houts, Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2003, pp. 103 121.

    Matthew Firth, 2014

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1 The Bayeux Tapestry: Author, Art and Allegory In the year of grace 1066, the Lord, the ruler, brought to fulfilment what He had long planned for the English people: He delivered them up to be destroyed by the violent and cunning Norman race. Henry of Huntington 1 The Bayeux Tapestry is one of the most immediately recognisable, and most complex sources of European history. It is an artwork that illustrates the Norman Conquest of England and the causes of, and justification for this action. In this it is a product of the period in which it was made and the location of its conception, reflecting the religious and political concerns of Latin Christian Normandy in the late 11 th century. Yet to understand the full meaning of the Tapestry, it must be read beyond the layer of the overarching narrative. Allegory, analogy and imagery used by the collaborators of the work have given it complexity beyond a simple chronology of events. In part the complexity and layers of allegory within the Tapestry arise from the authorship of the piece. No single author can be attributed to the creation of the Tapestry, it was a collaboration of patron, designer and artisan. Each party had their own contributions that can be teased out from the often ambiguous motifs of the Tapestry. Its visual nature, as a piece of textile art, allowed its authors to adapt symbolic imagery to convey narrative tropes, familiar to a receptive, 11 th century audience. The use of embroidery as narrative was not unique in its time, and the patron of the Tapestry made a conscious decision to depict the story of the Conquest in this manner. Nonetheless, the Tapestry is unique in form as a surviving history of the Conquest, though the narrative and themes of the Tapestry reflect those of other, near-contemporaneous, literary sources relating the story. In common with these, the Tapestry reflects a dual nature of religious allegory embedded in political actuality that is common in medieval sources, where religion and politics are inextricably entwined. Within this complex tapestry of author, form and narrative, it is possible to identify the motives for the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry, and each in turn must be examined. The Bayeux Tapestry was not created to record the political history of Normandy and England from 1064-1066. Neither was it was created to provide an official Norman account of the Conquest. It was created to satisfy its patron. 2 This does not preclude the Tapestry’s usefulness as a Norman history of the Conquest, however, as per Frank Stenton’s oft quoted declaration, ‘the designer ... could do no other than follow the tale most acceptable to his patron.’ 3 This creates an interesting dichotomy of authorship. The patron commissioned the Tapestry, but did not create it. The subtleties of designer and artisan add depth and expression to the narrative, yet the interests of the patron informed the Tapestry’s creation and the narrative it wove. The commissioning of the Bayeux Tapestry has been attributed to Odo of Bayeux, William of Normandy’s brother. 4 This provenance would mean the 1 Henry of Huntington, The History of the English People 1000-1154, ed. and trans. D. Greenway, Oxford, 2002, p. 24. 2 J. Bard McNulty, The Narrative Art of the Bayeux Tapestry Master, New York, 1989, pp. 59 – 60. 3 Frank Stenton, ‘Historical Background’, in The Bayeux Tapestry: A Comprehensive Survey, ed. Frank Stenton, London, 1957, p. 9. 4 N.P. Brooks and H.E. Walker, ‘The Authority and Interpretation of the Bayeux Tapestry’, in The Study of the Bayeux Tapestry, ed. Richard Gameson, Woodbridge, 1997, pp. 67 - 71; Carola Hicks, The Bayeux Tapestry: The Life Story of a Masterpiece, London, 2006, pp. 22 – 27; Michael Lewis, ‘Questioning the archaeological authority of the Bayeux © Matthew Firth, 2014
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