Friday, October 21, 2011

The story of Tristan in Boutis at the V&A London.

This summer, in the South of France, we visited the Boutis Museum in Calvisson. We were lucky to meet the creator at the origin of the Museum, Francine Nicolle, and she gave us a long explanation of a copie of a boutis made by the women of her group. The Tristan Quilt.
She has bought an original, very ancient boutis, one of 3. Another one is at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London, England.
  A few weeks ago we took all the family to the V&A and found the boutis. You can do the same by entering this immense Museum through the main door, and go right straight away (before reaching the shop) down some stairs. This area covers the Middle Ages, and there are also some great tapestries at the end of the rooms.
 We were allowed to use the flash on our camera, but sadly this creates a reflection on the glass protecting the precious fabric.

 This is the most ancient boutis found, and it is thought to have been made in Sicily, Italy, between 1360 and 1400.
This is copied from the website of the Museum "The legend of Tristan and Isolde was a favoured narrative in the Middle Ages and appears in many forms in literature and the decorative arts. The story represented here on a quilted linen coverlet in 14 scenes, is that of the oppression of Cornwall by King Languis of Ireland and his champion the Morold, and the battle of Sir Tristan with the latter on behalf of his uncle King Mark. Although in subtle shades, the large scale designs are very clear and the quilt must have looked particularly impressive by candlelight, with lively scenes of battles, ships and castles."

 They call it a quilt, but it's not one. There is no uniform wadding. Rather the shapes defined by the stitching are filled with a cotton meche afterwards. This gives the project transparency when a light is shown behind.

 You can click on the photos to enlarge them and see the details.
There is a PDF explanation on the page from the V&A Museum.

 The boutis is very big and made of several panels. You can't even see all of it in the vitrine where it is displayed, some is folded at the top.
On the sides of the main panel are 2 other ones placed to look at people around the quilt. As this would make them more obvious if the boutis was on a bed or table. There is another panel at the bottom.

 I've increased the size of this photo but you can look on the Museum website at the PDF that gives lots of explanations.

 As you can see there is a lot to look at.

I have included a lot of photos, I hope you enjoyed them. And maybe you will get the chance to see this testament of the skills of previous artists in needlecraft.

Enjoy your sewing.
In the meantime, as it is the school holidays, I am taking the girls to northern France for a quiet week away. DH has to work so won't be accompanying us. I hope to be able to sew a bit.



Irene said...

Pascal, that is so interesting. I have met Francine Nicholle in Scotland 2 or 3 years ago, when she was demonstrating Boutis. I found it fascinating and wanted to visit her museum in Calvisson. Last year we went to stay in Nimes and thought that it would be easy to get to the museum but it wasn't so we never got to go. We would have had to use public transport. I shall go to the V&A soon and go and see the Tristan Quilt. Thank you for sharing the photos. Have a lovely time in France.

NancyRose said...

Il est incroyable ce boutis...

Your "Quick quilt" is very nice... I love it.*

Dusta said...

Hello. My name is Karen Love and I came across your blog when looking for a Noah's Ark quilt design for my mum (getting your 2007 post). The pattern for that quilt is no longer available but it is so lovely. I was wondering if you still have your pattern, and if we can arrange to buy it off you? Please let me know what you think. My email is
Thanks, Karen (from New Zealand)