The origin of the wall tapestry
In the days when paint and wallpaper were not in general use, kings and noblemen transported their furnishings from place to place. Wall tapestries served to hide the austerity of bare stone blocks in big houses and castles. These hangings not only added beauty to a room, but also served as insulation by fixing a layer of warm or cool air along its perimeter. Nowadays, wall tapestries are decorative rather than practical. An attractive wall tapestry can add an area of interest and beauty to a plain room, while heating and air conditioning systems mean that the insulation function is not needed. Any length of decorative fabric can serve as a wall hanging, even an oilcloth tablecloth with an antique pattern, which can add a folksy feel to a dining or sitting area. For added fun, there are cushions available to match some wall tapestries.
Persian wall tapestries
The most luxurious of wall tapestries are hangings based on ancient Persian designs. These tapestries are made of quality materials, like wool and silk. In general, the tapestry will feature a medallion bordered by an echoing pattern, all based on traditional motifs. Invariably, the P
ersian tapestry will be made in shades of beige, rust reds and browns, and will look most beautiful in a sparsely furnished room with cream or white walls. A good quality Persian tapestry will have hanging tabs, a brass or bronze hanging rod, and often embellished with silk tassels. A wall hanging of this quality should be hung out of direct sunlight and cleaned professionally, once every year. Less expensive hangings are actually lengths of fabric, printed to resemble tapestries, and without the embellishments. However, these fabrics are often washable and are useful for concealing dirt-gathering areas.
Adding character to rooms
A coat-of-arms embroidered on a hanging of linen will create a personal touch in the blandest of surroundings. There are wall tapestries based on famous paintings and one popular theme is the "still life", an arrangement of fruit and flowers based on seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. Other tapestries feature medieval themes, scenes from mythology and popular pre-Raphaelite paintings. Another theme is the "pastoral", that is, a garden or country scene that can look startling in a modern, town house. There are tapestries based on abstract art, arrangements of shape and colour that tease the mind and refresh the eye. An interesting kind of wall hanging is the trompe l'oeil, an image designed to fool the viewer. These tapestries usually feature realistic images and run from ceiling to floor, making the onlooker believe that he is gazing into another room, looking up a staircase or even out onto a garden. Overall, the appeal of the wall tapestry is the flexibility it gives the homeowner to alter the character of an area quickly and with a minimum of effort. As with Persian wall hangings, the higher the quality of the piece, the more expensive it is. In most cases, there are less expensive versions available that are fun to use and easy to care for.