Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Medieval tablerunners: do they exist?

I don't know ... :-)

In the previous post, Jerusha asked me about it, and I've been wondering about it myself too. Up till now, I've got more questions than answers.

Judging by the size of them, some tablecloths could be tablerunners.

This 13th century tablecloth is 670 cm x 109 cm:

This one from the 14th century is 105 cm x 308 cm

Both pictures are taken from this paper:

Das Tafeltuch vom 13. zum 20. Jahrhundert,
von Anne Wanner-JeanRichard, in: der gedeckte Tisch, zur Geschichte der Tafelkultur, von Andreas Morel,
Zürich 2001, 216 S., 265 Abbildungen, ISBN 3-0340-0506-7

There is some literature about how these were made, who made them and who owned them. I haven't found anything yet about how they were used..

Did people use these embroidered tablecloths during dinner?

If so,
did they put the plates and dishes straight onto the embroidery or were they used as decorative tablerunners with another (bigger) tablecloth underneath?
how do you clean a linen tablecloth embroidered with linen and silk? A linen tablecloth with linen embroidery can be put on a bleach field, but that will damage the silk...

The website of the French National Library contains an interesting slide show with illuminations of late medieval people having dinner. You can see that the tablecloths are large, cover the whole table and hang from the sides of the table, sometimes reaching the floor. The embroidered tablecloths discussed above are not wide enough to cover the sides of the table...

Any feedback/ideas/suggestions are welcome!


Charla said...

The answer is yes, but not necessarily embroidered. The ones I have seen in paintings are table *rugs*. They are the correct size, shape and placement for table runners, though.


Christine said...

I've always thought that extant embroidered runners were for church use, not in homes everyday. Table carpets are a different thing, used on the table between meals. But I will be glad to hear from more learned people about this period, my specialty is Regency through Edwardian.
Hooroo, Christine.