Holy Grail tapestries

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The Arming and Departure of the Knights, one of the Holy Grail tapestries.

The Holy Grail or San Graal tapestries are a set of six tapestries depicting scenes from the legend of King Arthur and the quest for the Holy Grail. The tapestries were commissioned from Morris & Co. by William Knox D'Arcy in 1890 for his dining room at Stanmore Hall,[1] outside London.[2][3] Additional versions of the tapestries with minor variations were woven on commission by Morris & Co. over the next decade.

The series[edit]

The six original tapestries illustrate the story of the Grail quest as told in Sir Thomas Malory's 1485 book Le Morte d'Arthur. Like other Morris & Co. tapestries, the Holy Grail sequence was a group effort, with overall composition and figures designed by Edward Burne-Jones, heraldry by William Morris, and foreground florals and backgrounds by John Henry Dearle.[2][3] The narrative panels were accompanied by smaller verdure or woodland panels featuring deer, the knights' shields hung on trees, and text telling the story of the panel hung above. The sequence was worked over a period of five years, from 1891 to 1894, at Merton Abbey. The Attainment was the first of the series to be completed, and was shown at the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in 1893.[2]

The six tapestries are:

  • The Knights of the Round Table Summoned to the Quest by the Strange Damsel
  • The Arming and Departure of the Knights
  • The Failure of Sir Launcelot to enter the Chapel of the Holy Grail
  • The Failure of Sir Gawaine: Sir Gawaine and Sir Uwaine at the Ruined Chapel
  • The Ship
  • The Attainment: The Vision of the Holy Grail to Sir Galahad, Sir Bors, and Sir Perceval (also known as The Achievement of the Grail or The Achievement of Sir Galahad, accompanied by Sir Bors, and Sir Perceval)[2][3][4]

Textile historian Linda Parry wrote of the series "their design, decoration and weaving establish them, beyond doubt, as the most significant tapestry series woven in the nineteenth century."[2]

The original set of tapestries remained at Stanmore Hall until D'Arcy's death in 1920. They were subsequently sold and dispersed. Morris & Co. wove a second subset of the narrative panels in 1895 and 1896 for the drawing room at Compton Hall, Lawrence Hodson's seat near Wolverhampton. A third complete set was woven for George McCulloch in 1898 and 1899. Some hangings from these subsequent weavings are in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.[2][5] Others are in the collection of Andrew Lloyd Webber.[6] The Stanmore Hall weaving of The Attainment was purchased by guitarist Jimmy Page in 1978; the piece failed to meet its reserve at auction in 2008 and remains in Page's collection.[7][8]



  1. ^ Stanmore Hall, a Gothic Revival house of the 1840s, stood in Stanmore, Middlesex, northwest of London; commissions at Stanmore are discussed by Susan Moore, "The Marxist and the Oilman: Morris & Co. at Stanmore Hall", Country Life, 178, no. 4604 (14 November 1985:1494-96).
  2. ^ a b c d e f Parry (1983), pp. 116–17
  3. ^ a b c Wood (1997), pp. 116–18
  4. ^ Wildman (1993), p. 308
  5. ^ Fairchild and Leary (1981), p. 107-109
  6. ^ Guardian accessed May 17, 2010
  7. ^ Guardian accessed May 17, 2010
  8. ^ The Earthly Paradise accessed May 17, 2010


  • Fairclough, Oliver and Emmeline Leary, Textiles by William Morris and Morris & Co. 1861–1940, Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, 1981, ISBN 0-89860-065-0
  • Parry, Linda, ed., William Morris, Abrams, 1996, ISBN 0-8109-4282-8
  • Parry, Linda, William Morris Textiles, New York, Viking Press, 1983, ISBN 0-670-77074-4
  • Wildman, Stephen: Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998, ISBN 0-87099-859-5
  • Wood, Christopher: Burne-Jones, Phoenix Illustrated, 1997, ISBN 978-0-7538-0727-9

External links[edit]