Altar Frontal: Scenes from the Childhood of Christ

Altar Frontal: Scenes from the Childhood of Christ

c. 1500

Wool, silk, gold thread; tapestry weave

Overall: 107.3 x 240 cm (42 1/4 x 94 1/2 in.)

Bequest of John L. Severance 1942.826



Pictorial tapestries were symbols of wealth and more highly prized than paintings. Small tapestries with Christian imagery were frequently commissioned to embellish the fronts of altars. This example displays the Massacre of the Innocents, the Flight into Egypt, and Christ among the Doctors.

Tapestry weave is ideal for creating narrative scenes. The technique can be compared to painting, as each colored weft (horizontal thread) is interlaced with warps (vertical thread) where needed for the pattern. As expensive investments, tapestries have the advantage of being portable and easily stored and displayed.

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