War Paint (Part 1): The Bayeux Tapestry

Part 1 in a 10-part series on depictions of war in art.

The Bayeux Tapestry is a beautiful piece of art. Produced sometime in the 1070’s by the victorious Norman’s following their conquest of England, the tapestry depicts the build up and conquest by William, Duke of Normandy, in 1066. The Battle of Hastings, where King Harold Godwinson of England was slain, is the climax. The death of Harold is the scene I’ve chosen as the featured image, as it was, historically speaking, the critical event.

The tapestry serves as both artwork and propaganda. While it clearly tells the story from a Norman point of view, it still portrays King Harold and his soldiers in a valiant light. It also serves to justify the invasion, claiming that Harold broke an oath. The tapestry serves as one of the few sources on the battle, and warfare in general during the period. There are no sources from King Harold’s side and the Norman version is widely believed. As the quote states “history is written by the victors”, or in this case woven.

The tapestry is on display in Bayeux, France. Be sure to click on the top link below to see the work in its entirety. It’s worth a look.

To view other entries into the War Paint Series, follow the link.

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2 thoughts on “War Paint (Part 1): The Bayeux Tapestry

  1. jarretr says:

    I’m really enjoying the variety of material your covering in this blog. Art history is too often neglected by all but those who are specifically working in that field. By the way, hope your staying cool Down Under; I’ve been watching the Australian Open and it’s made me appreciative of Canadian winters.

    • My dad was a starving artist so he instilled a love of art in me. Even if I’m completely uneducated on the topic, I still admire it.

      Art is sometimes the only source available on a given topic, like the Battle of Hastings. While it’s often fanciful, it gives a decent depiction of what the painter’s (or patron’s) point of view on the subject was. And besides….it’s beautiful.

      I live in Melbourne, but I’ve been on vacation for the last three weeks. I’ve missed the heat. It hasn’t hit more than 30 where I’m at. Four straight days of 40+ is beyond hellish. But I’ll take 35 over -10 any day. Brrr…

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