Baldisholteppet

  • Artist: Uidentifisert kunstner
  • Creation date: Mellom 1150 og 1190
  • Object type: Tapestry

About

The Baldishol Tapestry is one of the most important works in the National Museum’s collection. This is due to its age, rarity and, not least, aesthetic appeal.

The Baldishol Tapestry is one of the very few tapestries made with the Gobelin technique prior to 1200 that have survived in Europe, and the only one of its kind in the Nordic countries. It is a treasure not only in a Norwegian context, but also by international standards. The tapestry was found in the Baldishol Church, a wooden structure from 1613 in Nes, located in what is now the municipality of Ringsaker in the county of Hedmark. The church acquired a certain amount of fame because of the Baldishol Tapestry, which was discovered by chance under the floor when the church was torn down in 1879. 

A mysterious “rag”  

The tapestry was among the materials and interior fittings that were sold at auction when the church was demolished. The Kildal family, neighbours of the church, purchased some of the items and stored them at their farm. A relative, Louise Kildal, visited the farm a few years later and found a dirty, old “rag”, covered in clay. 

Louise cleaned the rag, and from under the dirt emerged a tapestry made of beautiful yarn, which must have been coloured using dye from plants. She hung the tapestry in her living room. It was discovered there by museum director H. A. Grosch, who oversaw its purchase in 1887 and brought it to what is now the National Museum.  

Romanesque features  

With its few but intense colours, rhythmic play of lines and simple presentation, the Baldishol Tapestry clearly displays Romanesque stylistic features. The motif shows the months of April and May, with April portrayed as a bearded man wearing a long tunic, standing beside a tree filled with birds, and May as a knight in armour. Each of the figures is placed beneath an arch, into which the partially illegible name of the month is woven. 

The ragged edges of the tapestry indicate that it was originally longer, but it is not known whether it consisted of additional months, and if so how many. In any case, the tapestry cannot have been woven as an unbroken frieze presenting all 12 months. That would not have been technically possible with the looms that existed at the time. 

Saga Age interior 

Long, narrow wall hangings such as the Baldishol Tapestry were in use in Norway from the Saga Age onwards, in some cases until the 1600s. They were meant to be placed in houses without windows, where they could hang as a horizontal frieze along the walls.  

The Baldishol Tapestry has been carbon dated to between 1040 and. 1190. The motif itself is dated to 1180-1190. The palm-like ornaments at the bottom of the tapestry appeared in pictorial art around 1150, suggesting that the tapestry was woven towards the end of the dated period. Objects with similar motifs and style have been found both in Norway and abroad. The Baldishol Tapestry might have been woven by an artisan or at a convent in Norway, or perhaps at a relatively remote European workshop in France or England. 

The colours of the Baldishol Tapestry, unlike those of later tapestries woven from the same type of yarn, are extraordinarily well preserved.  

Sources

Baldisholteppet: digitaltmuseum.no

Sjøvold, A. B. (2000). Norsk billedvev. Oslo: C. Huitfeldt forlag AS.

Rogers, P. W. (2008). REPORT The Raw Materials of the Baldishol Hanging, Norway On behalf of Angela Musil-Jantjes, Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo. Bootham Terrace, York, United Kingdom: The Anglo-Saxon Laboratory.

Work info

Creation date:
Mellom 1150 og 1190
Other titles:
Baldisholteppet (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Billedvev i gobelinteknikk med ullgarn i renningen, ullgarn og noe lingarn i innslaget
Material:
Dimensions:
  • Width: 203 cm
  • Height: 118 cm
Keywords:
Style period:
Production place:
Acquisition:
Kjøpt 1887
Inventory no.:
OK-02862
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Stiftelsen Kunstindustrimuseet, The Design Collections
Photo:
Larsen, Frode