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Conserving the King Arthur Tapestry

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To visit The Met Cloisters in Upper Manhattan is to enter a time capsule of medieval art and history. Among the oldest tapestries to survive from the Middle Ages are five of the Nine Heroes Tapestries series, and at the heart of these is the King Arthur tapestry.

Untreated since its acquisition by The Met in 1949, the fragile piece was in need of attention.

washing the tapestry with the conservation team
As explained by Kathrin Colburn and Kisook Suh, a team of skilled conservators took on the task of conserving the King Arthur Tapestry through a painstaking process of cleaning, stabilizing, and reweaving. From Suh:

“Our treatment is not only about conserving and treating tapestry for the look; it’s so much about how to support it with other supporting, stronger, modern fabric. We had to make it strong enough to hold the stress during the display.”

removing old repair threads

Janina Poskrobko, the head of the department, she invited Anna Szalecki, and she has more than a few decades of experience working on tapestry conservation. Janina’d actually trained Anya 20-something years ago, and now Anya’s training me. It’s a tradition. It was a real privilege working on the tapestry so closely.”

Today, reinstalled at The Cloisters, the newly-strengthened piece can be enjoyed by visitors in Gallery 18.

the rehung tapestry
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