Angeli Ministrantes Tapestry
Figures designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones
Mille-fleur background by J. H. Dearle
Manufactured by Morris & Co.
Wool, silk (and mohair?)
241.5 x 200 cm
Courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum
Photograph and text by Jacqueline Banerjee
The designs of this tapestry and its partner, "Angeli Laudantes," were taken from the designs for a pair of stained-glass lancet windows in the South Choir of Salisbury Cathedral, but probably reworked for their new medium. The angels are shown in pilgrims' cloaks with pilgrims' staffs, "pausing in the paths of mercy to rest awhile their weary sandal-shod feet" (CINOA). Morris was "passionate about colour and dyeing" (Drake 18), and had been making tapestry panels since 1879; he found even more inspiration for his weaving after his move to Merton Abbey in 1881. Merton, a once-rural spot near Wimbledon, had already lost its village charms: "the suburb as such is woeful beyond conception," wrote Morris (qtd. in Drake 22). But it had a long and respected association with textile printing, and provided him with soft water from the River Wandle for dyeing. Moreover, the Abbey site itself was pretty, and rich in flowers. Here, using upright looms with a mirror to guide the warp threads, and with his nimble-fingered apprentices working on the less significant parts, Morris and his senior weavers turned out some of the firm's most beautiful work in this genre. Interestingly, CINOA (an international federation for antique and art dealers) returns to Aymer Vallance's "disquieting question" of 1897: were Burne-Jones's designs perhaps better suited to this medium than to the stained glass for which they were originally intended?
CINOA. "'Angeli Laudantes' by Morris & Co." (This useful account focuses on the partner piece in a pair bought by a customer in Surrey, not the ones which were finally acquired by the V & A in 1993; but the sets differ only slightly. Only "Angeli Ministrantes" is currently on show in the museum.)
Drake, Jane. William Morris: An Illustrated Life. Andover: Pitkin Pictorials, 1996.
Moncrieff, A. R. Hope. Surrey. London: A. & C. Black, 1934.
Saxby, David. "mertonpriory.org" (an account of Morris's time there, helpfully detailing his use of the premises, the different processes involved etc. See especially under "Tapestry").
"William Morris at the Victoria and Albert Museum (The V & A)."
Last modified 30 January 2008