At Castle Drogo in Cornwall until the end of October 2016 there is a rare chance to see a vibrant tapestry by artist Grayson Perry. It was created for his popular Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman exhibition at The British Museum.
The 15ft wide Map of Truths and Beliefs, created by Perry in 2011, is part of the new Truth and Triomphe exhibition at the castle. Perry’s tapestry is hung alongside a French masterpiece, the 300 year old Char de Triomphe, made for King Louis XIV and believed to have hung in the Palace of Versailles during his reign.
The exhibition is providing a rare opportunity for visitors to compare and contrast the historic and contemporary methods, symbolism and making of both tapestries.
Perry’s tapestry, created in the style of a map with the Great Eye in the Centre, is a colourful depiction of the clash of everyday and spiritual pilgrimages. There is plenty of fascinating symbolism for the viewer to pick out from the tapestry – including religious, secular and historical pilgrimage sites from across the world, from Stonehenge and Glastonbury or Medina and Everest.
Stand out figures include a tightly clad Lady in Black holding two mobile phones, representing aggressive consumerism, whilst water flows from Elvis’s mouth and a large bear sits near the centre, portraying a wild emotional vision of the world. Airborne weapons of war hover over the skyline whilst Perry’s much loved teddy, Alan Measles, sits in the pupil of the eye at the centre of the tapestry.
Hand-drawn by Grayson Perry, the Map of Truth and Beliefs was created using modern methods. Grayson’s design for the tapestry was digitized, coloured by a digital mediator in Madrid, then sent to a specialist loom in Belgium. Perry then oversaw the yarn colours to ensure the correct shade, before the modern loom produced the 15ft tapestry in under a day.
By contrast, the Char de Triomphe, designed by Charles Le Brun c.1715 (First Painter to King Louis XIV), took six people approximately three years to weave by hand before being hung at Versailles.
Although their manufacture differs enormously, they have a number of similarities and are both highly symbolic.
Grayson explained that he “wanted to make a sort of altarpiece, a map of heaven. I looked at the floorplan of the British Museum as a mandala, and added all the different terms I could find for the afterlife. The charge of it is in the clash of the prosaic and the spiritual. I was thinking of pilgrimage in a wider, non- religious sense, so I included places of pilgrimage that I’d googled. Most are religious but many are historical and secular.”
Castle Drogo is a country house and castle near Drewsteignton, Devon, England.
It was built from 1911 to 1930 for Julius Drewe (businessman and founder of the Home and Colonial Stores) to designs by architect Edwin Lutyens, and is a Grade I listed building.
It was the last castle built in England. The gardens are Grade II* listed in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
In 1974 Castle Drogo and 600 acres (2.4 km2) of the surrounding land was given to the National Trust. The castle, its contents and gardens are well worth visiting.
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