Should the Bayeux tapestry travel?

Home"Anciens2"Should the Bayeux tapestry travel?
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The Bayeux tapestry, 70 meters long and 50 centimeters high. - Photo credits: S.Maurice / Bayeux Museum

CHRONICLE - The decision to exhibit the famous embroidery across the Channel is stirring. The British, fascinated by this eleventh century masterpiece, consider that it belongs to their history.

It is a wooden box lined with tin, with inside a large wooden spool, made by Godefroy, carpenter in Bayeux. It is still in the reserves, at Museum of Tapestry, testimony of the very political role played by this fragile monument held hostage by the vagaries of history.

It is in this makeshift packaging that the long linen canvas embroidered at the end of the eleventh century made its last excursion: the Nazis, claiming to study the object scientifically, and who had stayed a long time in the city to appraise it, had taken it away. She did not have time to go to Berlin. It is the only work of art that General von Choltitz, who tells it in his Memoirs, had orders to save before burning Paris. At the Liberation, briefly attached to the Louvre before returning to Normandy, she was acclaimed, testimony of the victorious past of France.

She had survived the Revolution thanks to a brave man, Lambert-Leonard Le Forestier, who had opposed those who wanted to make tarpaulins

It was the second time that "the tapestry" came to Paris after nearly perishing. She had survived the Revolution thanks to a courageous man, Lambert-Leonard Le Forestier, who had opposed those who wanted to make tarpaulins. In 1804, Dominique Vivant Denon, to demonstrate that invading England was possible since it was done in 1066, had exhibited this treasure in what was called the Napoleon Museum in the Louvre. The affirmation of a mythical link with Mathilde de Flandre, wife of William and daughter of a princess of France, who can be imagined no more than a handmade needle, came in these years of the Empire to reinforce the national dimension that surrounds the embroidery.

Political symbol

The British, however, consider that it belongs to the adventure of their people. Charles Stothard of the Society of Antique Dealers of London, who came to copy it at Bayeux in 1816, stole a fragment of it, an interesting symbolic appropriation. The British royal family remains very attached to this founding document. Charles and Diana, in 1987, went to Bayeux. Do the Spencer really come down from one of Guillaume's companions named Despenser? The Prince of Wales offered to the museum a facsimile of the Domesday Book, the census of the lands which the Normans had divided in 1086, an act at the origin of the British aristocracy. In 2014, embroiderers from Aurigny, a neighboring Anglo-Norman island in Guernsey, were visited by the Prince of Wales, accompanied by Camilla. In front of the photographers, he himself embroidered a part of an astonishing recreation: passionate people had imagined the last scene of the tapestry, which Bayeux lacks: William's coronation at Westminster.

In Brexit's time, to make travel this insignificant masterpiece, extremely fragile, shows how its meaning remains political. The decision can not belong to the Head of State, being a work whose property was attributed in the nineteenth century to the Bayeux Library. It is up to Antoine Verney, chief curator of the Bayeux museums, who now has custody of it, and the scientific committee that will not fail to meet, to decide if a trip is possible during an exhibition. which could be held at the British Museum. It will undoubtedly require another box than the one that had to improvise the carpenter Godefroy ...


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