About the work
Place: Department for Education, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street
This wool tapestry of a woman’s head in profile by Scottish tapestry artist Margaret Maran brings to mind the composition and rich colour palette of 15th century Renaissance portraiture. In particular it recalls the Portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni (1488) by the painter Domenico Ghirlandaio (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid) – although Maran has pared back the ornamentation to create this most simple representation.
Tapestry and weaving is an old and labour-intensive tradition dating back in Europe to the Middle Ages. During the 17th and 18th centuries, tapestry workshops were established in England, but its products were mainly limited to a wealthy private clientele who could afford woven pieces and tapestries for their homes. The English artist-designer, William Morris (1814-1896), is renowned for his revival of weaving in the 1880s. He pioneered the value and integrity of manual work, with the aim of freeing decorative arts from their former association as ‘lesser’ arts. By the early twentieth century, a new wave of European tapestry artists emerged, many of whom worked independently from the established workshops.
From the 1960s, new weaving techniques, along with the introduction of chemical dyes, allowed designer-weavers to experiment more in their work. Two major weaving exhibitions held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in 1962 and 1965, were highly influential events in Britain. By the 1970s, demand was high for innovative and frequently abstract woven items and art works.
About the artist
During the 1970s, Scottish born Margaret Maran was working as a tapestry maker. This work was exhibited in the Scottish Tapestry Artists Group 2nd Exhibition at the University of Strathclyde in 1977 and in London a year later. For the past 30 years Maran has been based at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh undertaking the programme of tapestry conservation, for which she received a Royal Victorian Order in 2010 for services to the Royal Collection.
Margaret Maran (1950 - )
- Wool tapestry
- height: 49.60 cm, width: 31.80 cm
- Purchased from the Scottish Tapestry Artists Group, April 1978
- GAC number