A good tapestry always leave you stunned, whether you're lucky enough to stand in front of an original, or even if you catch a glimpse of some grainy photograph posted online. No matter its size, subject matter or presence in the public concious, going on a round the world tour of the finest pieces warped and weft sounds like a mighty fine idea for a holiday. If you want suggestions, then here's five of the world's most famous masterpieces just waiting to sit in front your eyes.
The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries
If going abroad isn't on your cards this year, then why not double up a tapestry tour with a wonderful visit to the West Country? And then, you can go to London because that's where the tapestry actually is. Housed in the V&A, The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries are a quartet of magnificent pieces that date from the mid-fifteenth century. Each measuring more than 3m in length, the depiction is of a grand hunt and hawking - an essential part of life in the Tudor reign. The author of the tapestries and those who worked on it remain a total mystery, yet this doesn't rob us from marvelling at the elaborate costume detail and rarity of its quality and scale, given how old it is.
Not the most uplifting item on this list, it's nevertheless a masterpiece of French culture, history and Christian art. A full colour adaptation of the Book of Revelation, this 100 meter tapestry sits in the castle Château d'Angers in west-central France. Both religious and political, it's a key eye opener in to the tensions of the Hundred Years War, and remains the oldest French piece of its era to survive into restoration.
The Hunt of the Unicorn
Hunting features again, albeit this time in a more fantastical way. These seven tapestries are housed in the The Cloisters museum (part of the MET) in New York, and show a group of high-born hunting down a mythical Unicorn. A surviving piece of the late middle ages and renaissance, it's been interpreted and debated in numerous lights, from whether the unicorn's freedom has been surrendered voluntarily, to whether he is actually a symbol of Christ.
The Lady and the Unicorn
More unicorns! A shame we don't have many on the site...This and our final tapestry are probably two of the most recognizable to the general public. A highlight of art from the Middle Ages, it depicts a noblewoman with a lion and, of course, a unicorn. Sounds strange, but in actuality each of the five patterns are commonly agreed to represent one of the five senses - we'll leave you to try and guess which ones are which. On display at the Musée national du Moyen Âge in Paris, it's influence into popular culture and fantasy, from classical music to Harry Potter and children's cartoons, is undeniable.
No prizes for having guessed this one's inclusion. This epic retelling of the Battle of Hastings has survived to this day almost in its entirety, with it now being exhibited in the Musée de la Tapisserie in Bayeux, Normandy. Though technically an embroidery, it's considered a tapestry none the less. A most interesting aspect of this folding story is the way the action sometimes overflows into the borders for dramatic effect (a technique even modern comic book artists use today), and the infamous unsolved mysteries surrounding King Harold's death and other aspects.
We'd definitely like to know if any of our readers have seen any of these in the flesh, or rather, cloth. Tell us about your experience either here in the comments or over at our Facebook, Twitter or Google+ pages.