Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Eagle Has Landed (in the shop)

by Ryan Reitmeyer on June 23, 2010

eagle tapestry
Ever since this Aubusson tapestry came to the shop it has been one of my favorite objects in our inventory. It’s been on the wall for eight months now (a record for us, as we like to change the walls regularly). I refuse to take it down because it is just that fantastic: this is a work that has tremendous aesthetic merit, and also perfectly encapsulates the period in which it was created (late nineteenth century France).

Look at the composition. There is nothing else but the beautifully rendered eagle, and that’s exactly the point. We’re all so used to seeing tapestries with a highly developed narrative of either classical mythology or biblical allegories, so this paired-down Aubusson is strikingly bold in comparison. The artist confidently insists that we focus all of our attention on the subject alone, thus opening the work up to our greatest scrutiny. After all, without anything in the background to distract our eye, all we can do is look at the eagle.
In my mind this tapestry is perfectly in line with the nineteenth century tradition of Impressionist painting, with a nod to Manet. Look at "The Fifer" or "The Tragic Actor" by Manet and you see the same confidence to strip away the background and put all of the attention on the subject. In the case of our eagle, the detail in the subject is stunning. Note the anatomical precision of the musculature in the eagle’s wings, depicted with strict accuracy in the placement of each feather. I can’t imagine the skill to even paint something like this, let alone weave it.

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