An important, mid-17th century, painted and stained, linen, hanging cloth

An important, mid-17th century, painted and stained, linen, hanging cloth

1600 to 1700 England

Offered by Lucy Johnson

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Painted with the parable of the prodigal son (St. Luke 16) beside a palatial building and formal gardens, amid a hilly landscape scattered with hamlets. The border decorated with flowers and foliage, and two cartouches with traces of a coat of arms. Bearing two, unidentified, stamps. Stained and painted in distemper, binding and mixing the pigments used (indigo, smalt, orpiment, realgar, chalk, native ochre and lamp black) into a paste with water and thinned with water-size. The unbleached linen strips xxx wide. Paint losses and general wear. Conserved (see reports). 60391138.

Research : C. Hassall, Paint Analysis Report, May 1999, concludes that the pigments found, particularly the native orpiment and realgar, are entirely appropriate for a 17th century date. Although technically they continue to be available to painters in the early years of the 18th century, it would be notable to find even one of them on a piece dating later than 1700, and finding them all points firmly to the early date. No specifically 18th century pigments were found. On a work where blue is so pervasive the absence of Prussian Blue, a pigment which became instantly and universally used after its invention in 1704, is further evidence that the hanging predates 1700.

Reference : A History of English Interiors (A. Gore), page 34 Owlpen Manor). Tudor Decoration & Furnishings (R. Edwards) page 106. A set of 'Acts of the Apostles', Hardwick Hall. Painted cloths (Matley Moore). Article in Textile History (Francis Mander)

This painted cloth is important, forming part of a small group which survive in their original condition or context. In general only fragments survive which are often in poor condition. Painted cloths were first recorded in England in the mid-14th century forming an integral part of interiors in royal apartments, and in the homes of nobility and church dignitaries. They had become widespread in the halls and upstairs rooms of manor houses by the 16th century when they became purely decorative and popular in subject matter often, as in this case, imitating more expensive tapestries and woven textiles. They continue to be found in the halls and parlours of the merchant and yeoman class in farm and town houses into the late-17th century. Their demise began in the 18th century when overseas trade expanded, manufacturing techniques developed, and consequently different mediums and styles were used for painted hangings. Printed textiles and wallpaper also became popular and inventories increasingly refer to painted or printed calicoes, chintz, silks, satin, and papers, many of which were imported from India and China. These replaced traditional, painted, linen cloths in fashionable interior schemes and many painted cloths were destroyed then and, subsequently in the 19th century, when the industrial revolution enabled the mass production of cheaper, printed textiles and wallpapers. Consequently few people have seen painted cloths, and little is known about them. In addition to playing an important role in the history of interior decoration and the decorative arts, painted cloths also had great influence on the fine arts being the precursor of the painting on canvass which gradually replaced the painting on panel.

In ‘Henry IV’ or ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’, Shakespeare makes Falstaff try to persuade Mistress Quickly that her tapestries are ‘fly-bitten’ and painted cloths would serve as well. Interestingly her old tapestries seen to be of more worth than painted cloths, and she could let Falstaff have the extra money.

As a wall covering :

• They were cheap compared to wainscot, tapestries and leather hangings.
The diary of Prior More (p84) gives the cost of painting and sewing.
Lynnyn cloth for ye lyttle hawle at Batnall s d
Item for lynyn cloth for bordurs to ye lyttul parlour
withyn the lyttul hall and ye parlour at Batnall ………………….. 12 0
Item for the peyntyng of ye same to Thomas Peynter …………. 3 4
Item for sowyng of ye honggyng sayes in qe seyd parlours &
for thryd ………………………………………………………… 4
Peyntyng of bordurs. Item payd to Thomas Peynter for
Peynting Ye bordurs in ye lyttal parlour withyn ye lyttul hawle .. 5 4
Item for lynnen for bordurs to peynt for the hall at Grymley …… 2 5
Item for the peyntyng of the same to Thomas Peynter ……….. 2 8
Item for xviii (18) ells of canvas for peynted bordurs to Crowle……. 6 9
Item payd to Thomas Kings for peynting of the bordurs of my
Chamber & ye deyesse (Dais?) at Crowle conteyning xlvi (46)
Yeardes price of every yearde 2d Summa 7/8
Lynnen clotthe. Item payd for xxxvi (36) ells of sultwych for
To make borders to peynt with price the elle 4 ½ d Summa …. 13 6
Item to John Taylor for sowyng the hangyngs with says in
The Lords Chamber at Crowle & the Dessyse in the hall
There with other work ………………………………………… 7 6

• They would have protected against draughts in timber framed houses with thin wattle and daub walls where shrinkage left gaps between oak and plaister.
• They would have added warmth and softness to the cold, hard walls of stone houses.
• They could be used to cover unplastered walls which, considering it took between twelve and eighteen months to prepare plaister from quicklime, and that it did not always key onto the timbers well, were not unusual to find.
• In an epoch were walls were invariably decorated with paintings or stencils, hanging strained linen as a hanging, which was closer to tapestry as a decorative effect, and could be designed to accommodate the householder’s individual taste was a logical progression.

The cloths were bordered, generally with a stylised pattern of leaves, fruit, flowers and these were applied with stitchery.


• Prior More’s possessions at Battenhall, Worcester:
“ Ye hangyngs of ye Newe parlor at Barnall, Item bowht at London the peynted clothes, That hangeth in the low New parlor next, Ye chappell at Batnall conteynyng in length, Xxiii yeards/s ij yeards iij quarters depe at 5 ½ d, Ye yearde/lxvi yeards of folery worke with , Dyvers beestes and fulls (fowles-birds), Item payd to Hew Adams man John for carriage, Of bokes and ye peynted cloths, From London, Bowht at London peynted cloths, Conteyning LXIX yeards price the, Yeard 5 ½ d, John Taylor Moris Taylor and Anne, Purser sewing the hangnges in the corte chamber “. Prior More also gives accounts of his painted cloths at Crowle and Grimley, Worcestershire in his diary of 1532.
• In Worcester, Elizabeth Branghynge, a widow who died in 1555 left amongst her possessions in her house in Broad Street “ painted cloths in my hall “.
• In Worcester Probate Register 1605, Christopher Coxe, Butcher of St Helen’s, “ In the hall about the said roome conteigninge the storye of the progigall childe “.
• In 1495 (Oliver Baker) in Shakespeare’s Warwickshire, p123 that Sir Thomas More had in his youth designed a series of hangings for his father’s house in London. There are ninie pageants or pictures with verses each of eight lines – Childehod, Manhood, Venus and Cupid, Aage, Deth, Fame, Tyme, Eternity, The Poet.
• Painted Cloth dated 1596 at Coughton Court, Warwickshire.
• The cloths hanging at Hardwick Hall are in the manner of tapestry.
• Sir Anthony Denny , Treasurer to Henry VIII made a list of Tapestries and Painted Cloths. Oliver Baker quotes it in his book :
• “ Stayned cloth wt the picture of Charles themperor
• Stayned cloth wt the picture of the prince of orrenge
• Stayned cloth wt the picture of men & women sitting at
A banquet and deathe commynge in making them all afraide & one standyng with a sworde to depe hym out of the dore … wt sondrde men & women syttynge at a Banquette in a woode & a crymson clothe hanged betwixte the croches of twooe trees to shadow them and a woman on horsegacke with footeman run(n)ynnge by her …. Of Phebus riding in his carte in the ayre wt thhistorye of hym
• … of Solymame the turque being his whole stature
• … thhistorye of King Asa of the breaking & castinge down of the aulters with the Idolles.
• Painted cloths at Munslow, Shropshire.
• Subject matter, trees and architecture.
• Painted cloths at Owlpen Manor featuring Tobias, the Prodigal Son and Joseph and his Brethren. Unusual trees, repeat of one type of flower, a peacock, a pigeon, and a camel. Reputed to have come from Daunts’ House in Ireland.
• Vaston Manor, Wooton Bassett, subject Susannah and the Elders.
• Luton Museum – Old Testament subject matter :
• Balaam and the Ass
• The finding of Moses
• Solomon
• The Queen of Sheba
• Elijah’s ascent into Heaven – landscape with trees, river and distant building
• Brandeston Hall, Suffolk, now at the Old Hall at Gainsborough. Sold Sothebys.
• Subject matter, hunting scenes amidst lakes and trees.
• Yarde House, Kingsbridge Devon.
• Subject matter, boar hunting scenes.
• Jenkyn Place, Bentley, lent to the V&A, misplaced.
• Anne of Cleves museum, Lewes
• V&A Museum, London
• The Shakespeare Trust

• Hunting scenes
• Incidents from the Apocrypha
• Incidents from the Old Testament
• Landscape scenes
A History of English Interiors (A. Gore), page 34 Owlpen Manor). Tudor Decoration & Furnishings (R. Edwards) page 106. A set of 'Acts of the Apostles', Hardwick Hall. Painted cloths (Matley Moore). Article in Textile History (Francis Mander)
Height 334.00 cm (131.50 inches)
Width 762.50 cm (300.20 inches)
Painted and stained linen
Lucy Johnson

Lucy Johnson
Mailing address: Bartons Lodge
Berry End
MK17 9EB

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