Reproductions of the Bayeux Tapestry

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Viking Age Compendium catalogues of Manuscripts & Art:
VA Bayeux Tapestry.jpg
Reproductions of the Bayeux Tapestry
Viking Age Compendium catalogues of Manuscripts & Art:
VA Bayeux Tapestry.jpg
Reproductions of the Bayeux Tapestry

This article aims to detail the reproductions made of the Bayeux Tapestry primarily before its restoration in the mid 19th century. The history of the Tapestry is largely covered by Fowke in the first chapter of his book on the Bayeux Tapestry published in 1875 [FOWKE 1875]. Fowke's text is the basis of most published authors accounts of the Tapestry's history and this article is no exception. The following scene numbers correspond to the plate numbers in David Wilson's 'The Bayeux Tapestry' [WILSON 1985].

Before the 1842 Restoration

c.1700 Faucault sketches

In 1724 a 10m long colour drawing of the first seventh of the Tapestry was uncovered by De Boze amongst the collection of antiquities belonging to the then recently deceased previous Ex-intendant of Normandy [WILSON 1985]. The Ex-intendant was one Nicolas-Joseph Faucault who had resided in Bayeux between 1688 and 1704 [DAWSON 1907]. Upon his death in 1721 his collection was XXXXX.
The origin of the drawings original source was unknown and they were passed to M. Lancelot, a member of the 'Académie des Inscrptions' for further investigation [FOWKE 1875].
The discovered colour drawing of the Tapestry has been attributed to either Faucalt himself, his daughter Anne (who was apparently a competent artist) or possibly to a commissioned artist and probably completed over a number of years prior to 1704 [HICKS 2006]:p.72.

  • Current location - Bibliotheque Nationale, Cabinet des Estampes, Fol. Ad. 102 [WILSON 1985]:p.12

1729 Lancelot engravings

On the 21st of July 1724 M. Lancelot read a paper on the Faucault drawings although he was still unaware of the original source from where the images had originated [FOWKE 1875]. At the presentation his used the original Faucault sketches.
Bridgeford mentions that reproductions of the Faucault sketch were made for an article for 'Academie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres' [BRIDGEFORD 2004]:p.29. I think that these reproductions are the four found in 'Des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres. Depuis l'annee M. DCCXVIII' published in 1729.

1729 Montfaucon engravings

Father Bernard de Montfaucon having read Lancelot's published 1729 article embarked on trying to discover the original source of Faucault drawings. He included a set of engraving based on Faucault drawings in the first volume of his 'Monumens de la Monarchie Francoise'. To appease 18th centry artistic taste he had the images engraved more in the style of the time.
Just prior to the volumes release and too late to be included he finally discovered that the origin of the drawings were from a tapestry kept in the Cathedral in Bayeux. The Reverend Father Mathurin L'Archer had answered a letter from Montfaucon and had stated the the original item was in fact a two hundred and twelve foot long (or 226 English feet) tapestry now in two sections [FOWKE 1875]. He sent Montfaucon a copy of all of the inscription that just made it into his first volume.

1729 Benoît sketches

After the location of the Tapestry was discovered in 1729 Father Bernard de Montfaucon commissions Antonine Benoît to produce an accurate copy of the rest of the tapestry with instructions to 'reduce it to a given size, but to alter nothing' [FOWKE 1875]. Benoît indicated indicated by the use of dashed lines where he considered areas of the embroidery to be missing [DAWSON 1907].
The images here are Benoît's unpublished sketches. Benoît's sketches are probably the basis for all of the engraving of the Tapestry up until Stothard's drawings of 1816-17 [DAWSON 1907]. Their accuracy has been criticised as Benoît attempted to make all of the panels a standard height. This has led so some stretching or compression of the images.

  • Current location - Unknown to the author.

1730 Montfaucon engravings

From Benoît’s sketches Bernard de Montfaucon's published a copy of the tapestry in his ‘Monumens de la Monarchie Francoise – Volume II’ in 1730.

1733 Lancelot engravings

In 1730 Lancelot composed and read a second memoir [FOWKE 1875]. From Benoît’s original sketches a set of engravings were made to accompany Lancelot's published paper in 1733.

1767 Ducarel engravings

FOWKE states that Ducarel republished Montfaucon's engravings along with a description of the scenes made a few years previously by Mr. Smart Lethieullier [FOWKE 1875]. Hicks, I think more correctly, attributes the engravings to those published by Lancelot in 1732. Apparently the French ambassador, Duc de Nivernois, was instrumental in getting permission for this [HICKS 2006]:p.86
. Bibliography

1819-1823 Stothard sketches

In 1816 Charles Stothard was commissioned to make a colour copy of the tapestry. He traveled to Bayeux 3 times to produce his water-colour drawing for the London Archaeological Society’s ‘Vetusta Monumenta’ published between 1819 and 1823. Stothold used stitch holes to try and fill in the missing bits and these reconstructions are included in his drawings.
Stothard apparently removed two pieces of the Tapestry during his visits, the theft of which was originally blamed on his then fiancée. These parts were replaced by later reconstructions and one of the fragments was eventually retuned to allow Dossetter permission to photograph the Tapestry in 1873.
Stothard records some of his observations in a letter to Samuel Lysons, Esq. in 1821. [STOTHARD 1821]

  • drawings - Vetusta Monumenta, vi, 1819.
  • Stothard, Charles (1821) 'Some observations on the Bayeux Tapestry' from Archaeolgia , xix.

1821? Stothard plaster casts

During one of his visits to Bayeux Stothard made three plaster casts directly from the Tapestry. He first poured wax onto the tapestry which he then removed and filed with plaster. The casts were then hand painted.

1824 Le Thieullier engraving

Le Thieullier publication uses an exact copy of Ducarel's engraving of 1767.

1838 Sansonetti engraving

From Stothard’s drawings. Sansonetti engraving 1838. Apparently shows some areas as missing where Stothard shows his reconstructed.

After the 1842 Restoration

In 1842 M. Ed. Lambert, the custodian of the Tapestry in its new permanent home in Bayeux, had the tapestry relined and repaired following Stothold’s drawings and his proposed reconstructions

1873 Dossetter photos

First photos taken by E. Dossetter in 1873 and published by the Arundel Society.

1875 Fowke photos

In 1875 Frank Fowke also publishes the photos (I think) in his ‘The Bayeux Tapestry’.

1885 Leek Embroidery Society copy

In 1885 Elizabeth Wardle arranged for the Leek Embroidery Society to make a full scale copy of the tapestry. This was based on coloured photos taken by Dossetter held in the V&A. This is now on display in the Reading museum.

1966 National Geographic

First colour version of the photos to appear in a magazine.

1983 Wilson

Photos taken whilst the tapestry was removed for cleaning.

What was restored in 1842?

In this section we will review a few of the points raised over the restorations.

The arrow in Harold’s eye

Probably the most researched of all of the reconstruct arguments and what stated us writing this article. It is said that Stothard created the arrow from a few visible stitch holes. The counter argument is that the holes should have been reconstructed as a spear.

The first scene

There was a lot of damage to the first part of the tapestry by Stothard's time. Two main points have been raised regarding this first scene:

  • Edward Rex -
The word Edward was completely missing in all of the pre Stothard drawings. An argument has been put forward that the Tapestry originally used the Eadwardus for Edward as it does in scene 30.
  • Harold’s moustache
Allegedly added to the fist panel scene to make him ‘more English’ [DAWSON 1907]. To me it seems more like here today, gone the next. The Faucault sketch seems to show a moustache but it has disappeared in the Montfaucon engravings. I suspect that the moustache was always there and that this was purely an artistic error.

Odo holding a mace cheers up the lads

Bishop Odo is represented rallying the Norman troops, the title formerly existed as Eps Odo Baculum Tenens Comfor, and Father Montfaucon remarked that the rest of the sentence "is effaced," but that it undoubtedly was Comfortat Francos. Later on, however, the Bisbop of Bayeux wrote to Lancelot, presumably at Benoit's suggestion, that the words might be restored as Comfortat Pueros, a free translation of which would be "Odo holding a mace cheers up the lads." The tapestry was accordingly so restored, to the wonderment of posterity![DAWSON 1907]

The last scene

Again lots of damage

  • Mounted archer
This image is cited by reenactors wanting to shoot a bow whilst riding a horse prior to the 1st Crusade. It appears in a scene that has been heavily reconstructed. An alternative reconstruction shows two horsemen and an archer running alongside them.
  • Saxon escaping on horse
No one is quite sure where this horse come from. None of the earlier sketches show anything like a horse here.
  • The English Flee???? <-(check exact text)
This text is almost completely made up.


Bridgeford, Andrew (2004) 1066: The Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry. [BRIDGEFORD 2004] ^ *
Dawson, Charles (1907) 'The ""Restoratios"""" of the Bayeux Tapestry'. . (Available Online) [DAWSON 1907] ^ 1 2 3 4 5 *
Fowke, Frank (1875) The Bayeux Tapestry. (Available Online) [FOWKE 1875] ^ 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 *
Hicks, Carola (2006) The Bayeux Tapestry: The Life Story of a Masterpiece. [HICKS 2006] ^ 1 2 *
de Montfaucon, Bernard (1729) Monuments de la Monarchie Francoise Vol I. [Monuments of the French Monarchy Vol I] (Available Online) [MONTFAUCON 1729] *
de Montfaucon, Bernard (1730) Monuments de la Monarchie Francoise Vol II. [Monuments of the French Monarchy Vol II] (Available Online) [MONTFAUCON 1730] *
Stothard, Charles. Some Observations on the Bayeux Tapestry. 1821. (Available Online) [STOTHARD 1821] ^ *
Wilson, David M. (1985) The Bayeux Tapestry. [WILSON 1985] ^ 1 2 3 *