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Conservation of embroidered tapestries designed by Aristide Maillol

Conservation of two embroidered tapestries, ’Musique pour la princesse qui s’ennuie’ and ’Concert de femmes’, 1896–1898, designed by Aristide Maillol.
In 1885, the French sculptor and painter Aristide Maillol (1861–1944) began his studies at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Besides painting, Maillol created designs for textile art. In this context, the Parisian Cluny museum’s collection of late medieval and early Renaissance tapestries, the so-called mille-fleur tapestries, proved a great source of inspiration. In 1893, he returned to his native town of Banyuls-sur-Mer where he set up a textile workshop and began experimenting with wool-dyeing using vegetable dyes. Moreover, he employed assistants to embroider tapestries.

The two embroidered tapestries ’Musique pour la princesse qui s’ennuie’ and ’Concert de femmes’ from 1896–1898 were acquired by Designmuseum Danmark in 1935 as a gift from the New Carlsberg Foundation. Originally, the two tapestries were commissioned by the Romanian princess Bibescu.

Each tapestry depicts four seated women, three of whom are playing string instruments for the fourth. The women are seated in a garden surrounded by trees, bushes, and flowers. There is an archaic stylisation and tranquillity about the women reminiscent of Maillol’s sculptures, for which he is perhaps best known today.

Very few embroidered tapestries modelled on Maillol’s designs exist today and the museum’s two tapestries are among the finest in terms of both design and execution.

Conservation
Both embroidered tapestries are sewn onto a lining of coarse hessian-like material made up of several pieces. The old mountings are removed and the embroideries are gently cleaned by hand on the front and back to remove layers of dust and dirt accumulated in the hand-spun wool over the years. Damaged seams and fabric tears on the edges are repaired and loosely stitched embroidery yarns on the reverse side of the tapestries are fixed. Where there is evidence of ancient insect damage, the embroidery is secured and loose elements are securely stitched down. Damage along the sewn-on fabric frame are repaired and new edging added to the reverse side. The embroideries are felled onto a thick textile lining and mounted on new stretchers. Finally, they are framed in newly adapted frames. The conservation work is carried out by the conservator Maj Ringgaard.

If the glass doors are closed it means that the conservator needs peace and quiet to concentrate on her work.

The Association of Friends of Designmuseum Danmark
The main objective of the Association, established in 1910, is to support the museum, its collections, and its activities. The Association of Friends, counting some 400 members, has generously decided, as their 2019 contribution, to support Designmuseum Danmark’s conservation and reframing of the two exquisite embroidered tapestries designed by the French sculptor and painter Aristide Maillol (1861–1944), executed by his wife and female friends between 1896 and 1898.

Designmuseum Danmark is extremely grateful for this gift which is an invaluable contribution to keeping the embroideries in pristine condition for many years to come.

When and where
The conservation of the tapestries can be experienced from March 18 to the end of May (end date depends on the work process). Maj Ringaard will be working in room 51 by the Creme de la Creme exhibition. Maj works Tuesday-Friday from 9am to 4pm. Contact Museum Inspector Kirsten Toftegaard for specific dates at: +45 22 34 72 68 or kto@designmuseum.dk