Tapestry (Gr. τάπης, a carpet), an ornamental figured cloth, used for lining the walls of apartments, or for covering articles of furniture. The Egyptians and Hebrews attained great skill in ornamenting textile fabrics by colored yarns worked in by the hand, and also by the loom. The art was early introduced into France, and about the 9th century tapestry was made with the loom; but the fabrication with the needle continued as an occupation for ladies of the highest rank. Up to the 12th century the use of tapestry was limited to the adornment of churches and monasteries; but after this period it began to be adopted in dwellings. In France the workmen employed in the manufacture were originally called sara-zi?is and sarazinois* indicating the origin of the art as derived from the Saracens. The finest work in the 14th and 15th centuries was produced by the Flemings, and about this period the principal manufactories in the west of Europe were at Bruges, Antwerp, Arras, Brussels, Lille, Tournay, and Valenciennes. Florence and Venice at that time produced very rich and costly tapestry; but in the 16th century the more ornamental work with threads of gold and silver was introduced in the manufacture of Fontainebleau. One of the most famous pieces is the Bayeux tapestry, commemorating the Norman conquest of England. (See Bayeux Tapestry.) About the end of the reign of Henry VIII. the art of weaving tapestry was introduced into England. In the reign of James I. the manufacture was established at Mortlake in Surrey under royal patronage.
For the earlier designs old patterns were employed, but afterward original scenes were furnished by Francis Cleyn. The method of weaving tapestry in what is called the haute-lisse or high warp has been described in the article Gobelins. - See Notice historique et descriptive sur la tapisserie dite la reine Mathilde, by the abbe Laffetay (Bayeux, 1874); and "The Bayeux Tapestry, reproduced in Autotype Plates, with Historic Notes by-Frank Bede Fowke " (Arundel society, London, 1875).