Lifelong Learning Programme

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Artists - ArtWorks

Name of the Artist / Artwork:

Bayeux Tapestry

Country: United Kingdom
Century: 1000 - The 11th Century
Artist / Artwork Description:

Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is the story of the events leading up to, and taking place during, the Norman invasion of England in 1066, embroidered on a scroll of linen 70 metres long and half a metre wide.

Synthetic Chronology:

It is likely that Bishop Odo of Bayeux commissioned the tapestry in about 1070 after the Norman Conquest

The Context:

Bishop Odo was William of Normandy’s half-brother and he clearly wanted to tell the story of Harold’s duplicity after the death of the English King, Edward the Confessor. The Tapestry was undoubtedly intended as a piece of propaganda and to celebrate the Norman victory.


There are conflicting opinions associated with the origins of the Bayeux Tapestry. In France it is believed that William the Conqueror’s wife, Queen Matilda created the tapestry, hence the French title Tapisserie de la reine Mathilde or Queen Matilda's Tapestry. However, research would suggest that the tapestry originated in England as opposed to France. Evidence suggests that the Bayeux Tapestry was constructed in Canterbury in Kent where there is known to have been a centre for embroidery and tapestry work

National Comparative:

It is one of the earliest pieces of English needlework of this type. Other examples, both secular and ecclesiastical, were much smaller garments or wall hangings. Other artworks were usually made of carved ivory or stone carvings or frescoes.

Artistic Analysis:

The tapestry is constructed of wool embroidery, in laid-and-couched work. Stem stitch is used to outline images and also for all the linear detail and the lettering. There is no evidence of any construction lines or tracing from a drawing on the tapestry. The colours are all from vegetable dyes and are limited to terracotta, blue-green, olive green, sage green, blue, dark blue or black and a golden yellow.
The Tapestry consists of a series of scenes with Latin inscriptions and decorative borders which show things like fashions, house furniture, ship construction, warfare equipment etc.
It is a fine example of Anglo-Saxon art which combines the northern ornamental tradition with the influence of the wider style of Latin Medieval Europe.

Transnational Comparative Analysis:

With the uncertainty surrounding the artists/manufacture of the Bayeux tapestry, all that we can say is that the textile technique is unusual outside England because the tapestry was stitched not woven. This style is regarded as innovative and very much representative of English art.
The art of story-telling through images, however, was not uncommon across a range of art forms throughout Europe.

Development of the artist's work through the years:

As so little is known about the particular artists who produced the Tapestry and because there is still much dispute about its manufacture and origin, it is impossible to trace any development. However, a replica Bayeux Tapestry, now on display in the Museum of Reading, was made by the Leek Embroidery Society in Staffordshire in the 19th century. The aim of the project was to make a full-sized and accurate replica of the Bayeux Tapestry "so that England should have a copy of its own".


The Bayeux Tapestry is an outstanding work of art. It is like an epic poem but at the same time a moral tale and a detailed and accurate historic document. It records the continuing development of Anglo Saxon Britain and, as well as recording great events, also gives small insights into ordinary life and affairs. This theme of narrative art became an ongoing trait in England throughout future centuries.


Anglo-Norman England, M. Chibnall (Blackwell Publishers, 1987
The Bayeux Tapestry, David M. Wilson (Thames and Hudson, 1985)
Conquest and Colonisation, Brian Golding (Palgrave, 2001)
The English and the Norman Conquest by Ann Williams (Boydell and Brewer, 1997)
William the Conqueror by David Bates (Tempus, 2001)

Related Material:

Image available

File name: 112_Bayeuximage1.jpg

Description of the material:

One scene from the Bayeux Tapestry showing William Duke of Normandy leading his cavalry. There is a Latin inscription telling us who he is and borders of mythical birds and animals.

Contextualisation Of the source:

Please see the website reference or those evaluated in the eLearning based Art Teaching Material. The Bayeux Tapestry itself may be seen in the Museum in bayeux Northern France and a copy in Reading Museum.

Interpretation of the source:

This image clearly shows an episode in the story of the Norman conquest of England and the detail that was embroidered around the edge of the work. This included everyday scenes, seasons of the year, the appearance of a comet, the plundering of war booty, and some symbols or pictures we have little understanding of.

File name: 112_Bayeuximage2.jpg

Description of the material:

A detail from the scene in the Bayeux Tapestyry showing Harold sailing to swear allegiance to Duke William of Normandy. It was because he broke this oath that William invaded England in 1066.

Contextualisation Of the source:

Please see the website reference or those evaluated in the E-Learning based Art Teaching Material. The Bayeux Tapestry itself may be seen in the Museum in bayeux Northern France and a copy in Reading Museum.

Interpretation of the source:

This fine detail not only shows us part of the story but also detail of the techniques. We can see the use of the woollen yarns on the linen background. The outline and lettering used stem stitch and the the figures are filled in with couching or laid work. The limited colours are the result of natural dyes. Other embroideries originate from England at this time, and the vegetable dyes can be found in cloth traditionally woven there. The sewing was most likely undertaken by skilled seamstresses from Canterbury in Kent.

Comments about this Artist/ArtWork

Date: 2009.09.18

Posted by Marta Kaminska,POLAND

Message: Bayeux Tapestry – woven by hand canvas – the length 70 metres is a very spectacular source of The knowledge abort the Medieval Normandy. Very precisely there can be observed garments, armours and the battles’ progress of that epoch. Besides the artistic value of the tapestry we can speak about the great historical value of the object and this is why we can take advantage from it during the history classes. I recommend the site:

Date: 2009.09.07

Posted by Jack Schneider

Message: Have a look at this video about Bayeux Tapestry. It is a great animation. It brings tapestry to life.

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