or color-coded line drawing on a sheet of linen or
paper that was the full size of the tapestry and
the mirror image of the initial design. The weft
yarns that gave color to the tapestry were usually
made of dyed wool and silk, created by a dyer.
Besides the natural whitish color of its wool, the
colors in this tapestry were cre-
ated with dyes from five types of
plants: fresh madder, fresh weld,
dried sappan, selected dried bark
of trees, and composted woad.
When it came time to
weave, parallel warps of strong, undyed yarn were
stretched vertically between the beams of a loom.
Facing the reverse of the tapestry, the weavers
(who were all male) wove following the cartoon,
which was either folded or cut into strips before
it was placed behind the warps on the loom.
Heddles, connected to treadles or to an overhead
bar, enabled the weavers to change the positions
of alternate warps with a shift of their limbs.
The dyed weft yarn, wound into small balls (or,
Dr. Michael Norris
A tapestry represents the
ultimate in collaboration
During the Middle Ages, tapestries
were an exclusive art form that
became more popular over time. At
first, tapestries with religious subjects covered the walls of churches, but later
tapestries with secular designs also decorated
the interiors of courts
and civic buildings. By
the fifteenth century,
tapestries with popular subjects not only
homes, but also divided rooms or kept drafts
away at doorways, while smaller tapestries with
coordinated designs decorated beds, tables, and
A tapestry represents the ultimate in collaboration and cooperation. First, an artist created a
small-scale drawing or painting of the design. A
specialist enlarged this into a cartoon—a color
About the Artwork
The Unicorn Is Found (details), c. 1495–1505. France,
probably Paris (the designs); South Lowlands,
Brabant, probably Brussels (the weaving). Wool warp;
wool, silk, silver, and gilt wefts, 145 x 149" (368 x
378.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New
York, Gift of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., 1937 ( 37.80.2).