SchoolArts Magazine

MAY-JUN 2007

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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All Levels About the Tapestry This tapestry was woven in France more than three hundred years ago. It is one of at least ten such tapestries based on a series of mythological stories by the Roman poet Ovid. The stories are called Metamorphoses because in each story a metamorphosis, or change, occurs. The tapestry tells the story of Diana, the goddess of hunting (known as Artemis in Greek mythology). The objects in her basket identify her as a hunter. According to the myth in Metamorphoses, Diana was bathing in the woods with her nymph attendants when Actaeon, a human, who was out hunting with his dogs, acciden- l o o k i n g a n d l e a r n i n g Evan Levy How Tapestries Were Used A tapestry is a woven textile, often showing a picture. In eighteenth-century Europe, tapestries were usually intended to hang on the walls of churches and palaces. Often they were made as a set, called a chamber, and were hung around a room so that all the walls were covered. The border of the tapestry resembles a frame and shows classical imagery such as animals, including monkeys and squirrels, and fruit, including persimmons and grapes. The tapestry is based on Metamorphoses, a series of mythological stories by the Roman poet Ovid. In each story a metamorphosis, or change, occurs. Actaeon and Diana are identified as the main figures in several ways: both are standing with hands outstretched and both are surrounded by similar colors: red (or pink), white, and blue. A number of animals, such as the hunting dogs, emphasize the dark mood of the story; similarly, overhead, a bird of prey, possibly a vulture, wheels high above Actaeon, ominously waiting for the impending events to unfold. Diana and Actaeon tally stumbled into the forest. Although he had not purposely witnessed her in this situation, Diana was furious that he had seen her bathing. In her fury, Diana pointed her finger, splashed water on him, and changed him into a stag. His own hunting dogs then attacked and killed him. The scene in this tapestry shows the moment of Actaeon's transformation, when horns crown his head as he changes into a stag. Diana and Actaeon from a set of Ovid's Metamorphoses (details). Designed before 1680, woven late 17th–early 18th century. French (Paris); workshop of Jean Jans the Younger (French, about 1644–1723), Gobelins Tapestry Manufactory. Wool and silk tapestry, 130 x 182" (330 x 462 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. George S. Amory, in memory of her father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Amory Sibley Carhart, 1964 (64.208).

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