A rare chance to see a vibrant tapestry by artist Grayson Perry, created for his popular Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman exhibition at The British Museum, is set to be displayed at the National Trust’s Castle Drogo from Saturday 5th March.
The 15ft wide Map of Truths and Beliefs, created by Perry in 2011, will be part of the new Truth and Triomphe exhibition at the castle. Perry’s tapestry will be hung alongside a French masterpiece, the 300 year old Char de Triomphe, made for King Louis XIV and believed to have hung in the Palace of Versailles during his reign.
The exhibition is providing a rare opportunity for members of the public to compare and contrast the historic and contemporary methods, symbolism and making of both tapestries.
Perry’s tapestry, created in the style of a map with the Great Eye in the Centre, is a colourful depiction of the clash of everyday and spiritual pilgrimages. There is plenty of fascinating symbolism for the viewer to pick out from the tapestry – including religious, secular and historical pilgrimage sites from across the world, from Stonehenge to Graceland or Medina to Everest.
Stand out figures include a tightly clad Lady in Black holding two mobile phones, representing aggressive consumerism, whilst water flows from Elvis’s mouth and a large bear sits near the centre, portraying a wild emotional vision of the world. Airborne weapons of war hover over the skyline whilst Perry’s much loved teddy, Alan Measles, sits in the pupil of the eye at the centre of the tapestry.
Hand-drawn by Grayson Perry, the Map of Truth and Beliefs was created using modern methods. Grayson’s design for the tapestry was digitized, coloured by a digital mediator in Madrid, then sent to a specialist loom in Belgium. Perry then oversaw the yarn colours to ensure the correct shade, before the modern loom produced the 15ft tapestry in under a day.
By contrast, the Char de Triomphe, designed by Charles Le Brun c.1715 (First Painter to King Louis XIV), took six people approximately three years to weave by hand before being hung at Versailles.
The Char de Triomphe also contains a myriad of symbolism placing the sun, Louis XIV’s personal symbol, at the centre of the tapestry. Surrounding the sun are horns of plenty (symbols of abundance), as well as armour and a chariot depicting war and victory to build up imagery of an all-powerful monarch – including a snake trampled under the chariot to represent crushing civil rebellion against France’s Sun King.
Although their manufacture differs enormously, they have a number of similarities and are both highly symbolic.
Grayson explained that he “wanted to make a sort of altarpiece, a map of heaven. I looked at the floorplan of the British Museum as a mandala, and added all the different terms I could find for the afterlife. The charge of it is in the clash of the prosaic and the spiritual. I was thinking of pilgrimage in a wider, non- religious sense, so I included places of pilgrimage that I’d googled. Most are religious but many are historical and secular.”
Perry originally created the tapestry for his exhibition The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at The British Museum in 2011, and has been in a private collection since. The tapestry is on display at Castle Drogo as a result of a chance conversation between friends, who kindly offered to let it be hung with the Char de Triomphe. The tapestry will be on show at Castle Drogo until the end of October 2016.
Bryher Mason, House and Collections Manager at Castle Drogo, said “We are delighted to have this opportunity to stimulate discussion about the medium of tapestry and how contemporary art allows us to see historic objects with new eyes.”
Visitors can see the two tapestries on display from Monday 7 March until Sunday 30 October at Castle Drogo.