Bayeux Tapestry

Posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2001
By: Darren Schroeder

Cover of Bayeux Tapestry Creator(s): Odon de Conteville - Supervisor
Publishers: Ville de Bayeux
From: com
Price: ???

Dating from the 11th century, this 70 meter long tapestry portrays the political intrigue and battlefield events that surrounded William the Conqueror claiming the throne of England. The plot is conveyed with no direct dialogue and the minimum of text, though this 1/7 scale edition comes with brief descriptions of the events being depicted to aid the reader.

This is storytelling at its most direct with little background to the events and no depth to the characterization. The tapestry follows Harold as he is sent to advise William that the current King of England has named him as his successor as he has no male heirs. However, when the king dies Harold claims the crown for himself. Understandably William is put out by this turn of events and decides to go to England and sort Harold out.

The artists who worked on the tapestry used needle and thread to good effect, embroidering a colourful and lively work, though their style means that most of the characters are so similar that without the captions it can be quite hard to keep track. A lot of effort is put into the top and bottom margins, with an array of mythical beasts depicted. While highly decorative, for the most part these creatures and the occasional naked cavorting couple seem to bear little relevance to the main plot. It is then to great dramatic effect that during the battle scenes these decorative motifs are replaced by fallen soldiers in various states of dismemberment.

This is storytelling on a large scale, and it is interesting to note how very few contemporary comics focus on depicting historical events in such an impersonal way. Current creators would tend to focus on the personal stories of the people involved, such as in Saving Private Ryan, probably writing themselves or a narrator into the events. Even so, it is still interesting to note that the supervisor of the project was in fact the half brother of William the Conqueror.

In a Word: Epic.

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