The Tournai tapestry at Montacute House

A National Trust conservator checking a rare fifteenth century tapestry

The 550-year-old Tournai tapestry is one of the highlights of Montacute House and will be on display again this autumn, having been away for several years for specialist conservation and cleaning.

The tapestry was originally part of a larger set woven in the Flemish town of Tournai between 1477 and 1481. It depicts a knight on horseback carrying a standard with arms of Jean de Daillon. It’s one of the few surviving tapestries from the fifteenth century and was commissioned by de Daillon himself, but it was eventually gifted to him by the city of Tournai.


After his death the history of the tapestry is unknown until 1910 when it was loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It was then bought by Sir Malcolm Stewart in 1935 and was bequeathed to Montacute House in 1951.


The tapestry has been away from Montacute House for four years, travelling to Belgium for a specialist wet clean to remove centuries of dirt and it also spent a considerable amount of time at the National Trust’s Textile Conservation Studio in Norfolk. Skilled conservators hand sewed in individual repairs, replaced missing threads and strengthened damaged areas. It took nearly 1,300 hours of work to conserve.


The process has brought out previously hard to see details and the subject of the tapestry is much clearer than before.
 

" Now that the knight is clean we can clearly see his features, which are quite thin and fine, and he has long flaxen coloured hair showing below his helmet – something you couldn’t see very well before. We think the knight probably shows Jean de Daillon himself."
- Sonja Rogers

The details of the flowered background are brighter once again as well. The pattern is known as a ‘millefleurs’ or a thousand flowers, and you can identify lots of recognisable blooms including poppies, daffodils and thistles.


Now the tapestry has returned to Montacute House, it will be on display in the Dining Room throughout October and November 2021.