by Elizabeth Cleland and Lorraine Karafel. Glasgow Museums; Philip Wilson, October 2017. 724 p. ill. ISBN: 9781781300503 (h/c), $200.
Reviewed January 2018
Glasgow shipping magnate Sir William Burrell (1861-1958) amassed over 200 medieval, Renaissance, and early modern European tapestries throughout his life. His collection contains examples from all of the major tapestry production centers in Europe, including the Netherlands, France, and Germany. Until the publication of Glasgow Museums: Tapestries from the Burrell Collection many of these tapestries had never been cataloged, were rarely exhibited, and therefore little known.
The catalog begins with an introductory essay on tapestry collecting in Britain, and in particular on Burrell’s approach to the collection and display of tapestries. The following essay provides information on the maintenance and care of tapestries, and includes a discussion of the care that Burrell himself took with his tapestries. An accompanying photo essay presents detailed illustrations of the tapestry conservation process, including images of tapestries under ultraviolet light, which highlights aspects of tapestries otherwise difficult to see in visible light. Additionally, the book also explores the various sources of dyes used in an English workshop.
The entries on the tapestries held within the Burrell Collection, Glasgow, make up the heart of this weighty publication. The tapestries are organized first by area of origin, and within that, by theme (religious, secular, floral, armorial, pastorals, mythological, etc.), and then arranged chronologically. In each record there is an accompanying image, statement of provenance, subject matter and design, and date and place of production. Also included for each tapestry are technical notes, which describe their current condition and conservation interventions, as well as information on their weaving production, exhibition history, and full bibliographies. Appendices include a list of collectors who Burrell acquired his tapestries from, dealers who sold Burrell tapestries, exhibition lists that included Burrell’s tapestries, lists of loans to museums, colleges, and cathedrals, accession and catalog numbers, and a comprehensive bibliography.
This large book is thoroughly researched and well-presented, making it a fantastic resource for reference and research and is highly recommended for a library or museum interested in any aspect of European tapestry production, collecting, and preserving. Most of the images throughout the book are in color, making this a worthwhile publication on that alone. Introductory essays contextualize Burrell and his collecting practices while the logical breakdown of the collection by country of origin and theme make this book an excellent reference tool.