The Annunciation Tapestry

Original Painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner; oil on canvas, 57 by 71.25 inches, 1898.
Philadelphia Art Museum, Philadelphia, PA, permanent collection

This commission for St. Mary's College Church in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, translated "The Annunciation" into a tapestry 7 feet high by 9 feet wide. The church's motto is "Weave Faith Into Your Life."

The church asked the Philadelphia Art Museum for permission to translate this painting into "true" tapestry. Liturgical art consultant Barb Day was instrumental in helping Fr. Jeff Donner in choosing this medium. "True Tapestry" is a term I have used for several years now to differentiate between the discontinuous weft two-harness weave and the multiple harness computer-driven Jacquard structure. Many tapestries referred to these days are "Jacquard" loom woven, seen as upholstery fabrics and as inexpensive multiple images for interior fabric wall hangings purchased through department store catalogues and also seen in thrift shops.

The tapestry is woven on a large 16th century loom. The weave density is at 8 ends per inch (vertical warp threads) with 4 strands of Paternayan Persian wool yarns used as the weft (horizontal threads). The finished tapestry is shown below.

Henry Tanner, an American painter, was active in France before the 1900s and into the 1930s. The following books are recommended for viewing and understanding Mr. Tanner's work.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, Dewey F. Mosby, Philadelphia Art Museum of Art, 1991
Henry Ossawa Tanner American Artist, Marcia M. Mathews, University of Chicago Press, 1969

If you have questions, please write to me. I will be happy to share techniques and an update on the completion and installation of the work.


* All images are copyright by the artist. *

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