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The ever-changing tide of European political, religious, and economic conditions did not leave the tapestry industry unscathed. During the Eighty Years’ War (1568–1648), Netherlands fought for its independence from Spain, creating upheaval in the Low Countries, the center of European tapestry production at that time. As a result, many tapestry weavers and workshop owners relocated to other countries, including England, France, and Italy, to the great benefit of these regions’ tapestry industries.

Similarly, the French Revolution (1789–1799) ravaged that country’s workshops, ruining the royalty, aristocracy, and aspiring upper class—the primary patrons of the industry. Moreover, during this period many tapestries were burned in order to retrieve raw material from their metal threads; gold was used to pay workers back wages, while lesser metals helped supply the war effort with material for bullets. Tapestries were also defaced to remove symbols of the hated ancien régime, or old order.


Winter (detail) from The Seasons, 1700/20. After a design by Charles Le Brun. France, Paris. Gift of the Hearst Foundation in memory of William Randolph Hearst.