In the Green World

Cole & Son’s new wall covering gives an historic tapestry new life
Formal living room with long modular couch in foreground. In background is a double door and a wall with a stylized graphic.

Above Image: Verdure Tapestry is one of 17 patterns in Cole & Son’s new Great Masters wall coverings collection, inspired by the holdings of the Historic Royal Palaces. Photo courtesy of Cole & Son.

By Lydia Lee

At Kensington Palace, in a stateroom entitled the King’s Presence Chamber, hangs a richly detailed, wool and silk tapestry. Dating from the reign of Charles I, the nearly 400-year-old weaving depicts a fantasy landscape with stylized plants and Gothic buildings, unfolding in teal and gold hues.  “We all fell in love with it,” says Marie Karlsson, managing director at Cole & Son. “It feels kind and warm.” The venerable wallpaper and fabric design house has now collaborated with Historic Royal Palaces— a nonprofit organization and one of the world’s leading centers for tapestry conservation—to transform this treasure into its new Verdure Tapestry wall covering.

Two images of palace. One is an exterior view with fountain in foreground. In the other photo is the throne room with an elaborate upholstered chair under a large canopy.

Kensington Palace, and the King’s Presence Chamber where the Verdure Tapestry hangs on the wall at right. Photos courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, monarchs and churches commissioned tapestries to display their vast wealth and power. Laboriously handcrafted by skilled weavers in provincial workshops in Belgium and France, tapestries were a medium for depicting military triumphs and religious narratives on a grand scale before the invention of stretched canvas for large-format oil paintings.

Closeup of tapestry.

By the mid-17th century, when the Verdure Tapestry (circa 1630) was made, weavers had been freed from the constraints of figuratism, and wall hangings with lush landscapes, which became known as verdure (“greenery” in French) tapestries or “garden tapestries,” were immensely popular at the time. “They have a fantastical element to them, and are very graphic and quite contemporary in feel,” says Claudia Acott-Williams, a curator at Kensington Palace.

Side by side views of graphic wallcovering. One is shown at a distance with furniture in foreground, while the other is a close of a section of the elaborate design.

Verdure Tapestry and detail. Photos courtesy of Cole & Son.

To create the wallpaper, which is also available as a silk wall covering, Cole & Son artists hand-painted a full-scale design of the roughly 10-by-13-foot tapestry—an effort that took three months. They retained the tapestry’s border at the bottom and expanded the sky at top; they also faithfully duplicated the original colors, which were greener hues in 1630 but which have faded with time, resulting in bluish tones. (Traditionally, green dye was produced by mixing blue and yellow, and the latter was quicker to fade.) From Karlsson’s point of view, the palette has a charming patina. “We’re bringing history into the future,” she says. The collaboration also supports the work of the Historic Royal Palaces.

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