Mortlake Tapestry Works

Mortlake Tapestry Works

Mortlake Tapestry Works were established alongside the River Thames at Mortlake, then outside, but near West London in 1619 by Sir Francis Crane.

Royal Patronage

In 1629, Charles I granted ca.400 acres of Stoke Park at Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, England, together with a Manor House to Sir Francis Crane, director and founder of the Mortlake Tapestry Works established on the John Dee's estate, Mortlake, in 1619, later the site of the Queen's Head pub.

Crane was made Secretary to Charles I when he was Prince of Wales and was knighted in 1617. With grants of land, money and high prices charged for tapestries, Crane became very wealthy.

The Mortlake works made use of the weaving skills of immigrant Flemish workers. These workers were highly skilled in depicting natural textures and effects such as flesh and water. The 17th century was when the works was at the height of its fame and production.

The Tapestries

Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight

Lord Leverhulme acquired the Mortlake tapestry series in 1918. It was sold from Stella Hall, near Newcastle, by the family of the industrialist Sir Joseph Cowen (1800–73). The set may have been woven for the hall which was demolished in 1955. In the 17th century it was the home of the Tempests, a wealthy Catholic courtier family, loyal throughout the reigns of the Stuart kings.

The gallery owns a complete set of six of one of the most popular tapestry series woven at the Mortlake works. It illustrates the ancient Greek story of the tragic love of the priestess Hero for Leander. Leander swam the dangerous currents of the Hellespont, the straits between Europe and Asia at the Bosphorus, in order to see his love, but was drowned one stormy night.

Mortlake’s chief designer Francis Cleyn designed the series in 1625 and the first set was woven for James I.

An example is: ' 'The Meeting of Hero and Leander at the Temple of Venus, Sestos’ ' ' ca.1660-70 Woven in wool and silk, 286 x 311cm, accession number LL5464, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Merseyside


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