Art & Politics

The Bayeaux Tapestry (1070-80)

The Bayeaux Tapestry is a depiction, made by the victorious Norman invaders of the story leading up to, and their defeat of, the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Hastings in England in 1066 A.D. The Tapestry was made (probably in the 1070s) by the victors, as a visual historical record of a recent military and political event and is now of great historical value.

Although referred to as a 'Tapestry' it is in fact a piece of embroidery, over 70 metres in length, and now over 900 years old. Opinions vary as to its merit as art. Some see it primarily as an irreplaceable historical document or report, others see it primarily as a vital and beautiful work of art.

The short video here was animated and directed by David Newton, with music and sound design by Marc Sylvan. It animates the story in the Tapestry and brings it to life.

Prior to this Norman invasion great quantities of valuable Anglo-Saxon items (e.g. many metal pieces) were hoarded, hidden away and buried around the English countryside by their owners, fearful of the oncoming invasion. Much of this was ‘lost’ for almost a millennium and only 'discovered' in the 20th Century by Archaeologists. Many of these pieces have a complexity of forms and freedom of expression not present in the Bayeaux Tapestry.

Since being re-found much of it has been ‘adopted’ as Art by contemporary Art Historians, with their fresh eyes and 1,000 years of hindsight. The objects are the same (more or less) as they always were but their original meaning and significance has now been superceded by ours. The same can be said for the Bayeaux tapestry, or perhaps any piece of human endeavour re-assessed after a large span of time by people using a different belief system and a different mindset from the work’s creators.