Last week I was lucky to go to a EPTA meeting hosted by the Max Planck Institute at Schloss Ringberg. We had 3 days of pulsar astronomy discussions, but we also managed to fit in a tour of this castle. It’s a fascinating place, built as a personal project and obsession by Duke Luitpold in Bavaria (Herzog Luitpold in Bayern), and his friend, the artist, architect and interior decorator, Friedrich Attenhuber, from around the 1920s to 1970s.
The architecture is a mix of whatever styles caught the pair’s imagination and the art work is sometimes rather creepy, but the furniture and fittings (all designed by Attenhuber and created locally and in Munich) were fascinating.
One piece on the tour caught my attention enough that I went back for some quiet time alone to figure out its construction. The rug looks simple enough at first glance, geometric patterns in black and white, with turquoise edges. I assumed that it was loom woven, but on inspection, decided that it was another example of the tapestries that cover every available wall in the castle (at least all those nor covered by paintings). The rug is around 6ft (1.8m) wide and about twice that long, it would have required a very large loom if woven, so perhaps that it why it was made as a tapestry.
The yarns seem to have been spun from natural coloured dark and light fleece, with a section dyed in turquoise (to match the furniture, ceramic room stove, handpainted wall papers and paintings). The turquoise may have been dyed over a speckled greyish white wool as the colours are very uneven.
You can also clearly see from these pictures how the weaver carried the coloured yarn a step into the next block at regular intervals, a nice addition to the pattern and an improvement on the construction of the rug, since it closes the developing slits and keeps them smaller. (I’d still have doubts about the durability of this piece for hard use on a floor).
In the next pictures you can see the carried over stitch reappearing again in every pattern block to keep the vertical slits small, and also the variation in colour in the yarns, which makes me almost certain that the rug was woven with undyed yarn spun from a dark coloured fleece. You can also see that the dark blocks are each woven from a different piece of yarn, in a classic tapestry technique.
The rug stands out in contrast to the intricate picture tapestries hung on the walls of the castle (according to our host, these were woven in Munich). I would love to know more about it. The design is strong and simple, and it demonstrates all the standard tapestry techniques. Perhaps it was made locally, maybe even constructed from hand spun yarns from the local sheep or goats. Even the turquoise dye is attractively uneven. The colour match to the furnishings is excellent as you can see from the chair in the first picture, but turquoise is notoriously difficult to do well and early turquoise dyes could fade badly (though this appears the same front and well finished back)
There are runners on sideboards and chests which maybe from the same source. I was told that the castle has a lot of pieces in storage, with no room for display. There doesn’t seem a lot of information here, and there’s definitely a place for more research!