Tapestry: Greenery

English
1892
Designed by John Henry Dearle (1860–1932), For Morris & Co. (English)


Dimensions

Height x width: 7 x 15 5/8 ft. (213.4 x 475.6 cm)

Accession Number

2007.314

Medium or Technique

Wool and mohair; tapestry weave

Not On View

Collections

Europe, Textiles and Fashion Arts

Classifications

Textiles

Horizontal tapestry with forest scene. Three trees are depicted across the tapestry (pear, chestnut and oak) with dense foliage below and two rabbits, a fox and a deer. In the foreground are many flowering plants including foxgloves, strawberries, hawkweed, bouncing betty, red tulips, blue daisies, and bluebells. A white convolvulus climbs the chestnut tree. Above each tree is a banner with an inscription written by William Morris in his “Verses for Pictures” published in 1891. Above the pear is the inscription, “By woodsman edge I faint and fail, by craftsman’s edge I tell the tale.” The chestnut tree bears the inscription: “High in the wood, high o’er the hall, aloft I rise, when low I fall.” The oak tree bears the inscription: “Unmoved I stand what wind may blow, swift swift before the wind I go.” The tapestry was commissioned in 1892 by Madeleine and Percy Wyndham for their country house Clouds, and woven at Merton Abbey by John Martin and William Sleath.


William Morris wrote that tapestry is “the noblest of the weaving arts,” allowing the weaver to achieve “depth of tone, richness of colour, and exquisite gradation of tints.” These qualities are clearly evident in “Greenery”-a masterwork of the British Arts and Crafts movement. Morris first set up the Morris & Co. tapestry workshop at Merton Abbey near London in 1881, with John Henry Dearle as his first apprentice. Dearle went on to manage the works at Merton Abbey and became one of the firm’s most successful designers. When Percy and Madeleine Wyndham commissioned Morris to produce a tapestry for their country house “Clouds” in 1892, Dearle produced this lush design. It includes three trees: oak, chestnut, and pear, with verses written by William Morris woven above each, making reference to that tree and its use in carpentry.

Provenance

1892, the Hon. Percy Scawen Wyndham (b. 1835- d. 1911) and his wife Madeline (d. 1920), Clouds, East Knoyle, Wilshire (original commission); by descent to Dick Wyndham; June 1933, sold by Wyndham in the auction of the contents of Clouds by Knight, Frank and Rutley (frontispiece, lot 59, 'A Morris verdure tapestry, with deer, fox and rabbits') to Morris & Co. for 150 guineas; 1933, sold by Morris & Co. to Mrs. Lucius Gubbins (d. 1955), Eastbourne, East Sussex for 250 guineas [see note 1]; 1955-2004, by descent in the Gubbins family [see note 2]; November 21, 2006, sold at auction by Lyon & Turnbull, Edinburgh, Scotland (lot 281) to Peter Petrou, London; sold by Petrou to the MFA. (Accession date: March 21, 2007)

NOTES:
[1] The tapestry was exhibited by Gubbins at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1934 as part of a retrospective exhibition on William Morris.

[2] From 1970-2003, the tapestry was displayed at Crathes Castle, Banchory, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, by Gubbins descendents.

Credit Line

Charles Potter Kling Fund and Museum purchase with funds donated anonymously and from Jody and Tom Gill, Suzanne Dworsky, Heidi Nitze, Mr. and Mrs. E. Lee Perry, Ann Clarkeson, Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation, Inc., Lynne Rickabaugh, Penny Vinik, Brigitte Moufflet, Doris May, Mrs. I. W. Colburn, Kathleen Kemper, and Edith I. Welch