Aubusson weaves Tolkien

Reuniting with the tradition of great narrative wall hangings


This project came to light after much thought on the form a large tapestry wall-hanging with a literary narrative would take today. The name of J.R.R. Tolkien quickly came to the fore as author of one of the greatest literary sagas of the 20th century.

The project is structured around four series, each linked to different works by the author: Letters from Father Christmas (a collection of letters written and illustrated by J.R.R. Tolkien for his children between 1920 and 1942), The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and finally, The Silmarillion (a work published posthumously in 1977 by J.R.R. Tolkien’s son, Christopher Tolkien), which traces the first Ages of Middle-earth – the setting for his novels. 13 mural tapestries will be created. The fourteenth piece, the Numenorean Carpet, is a woven floor-covering of about 130 square metres. This will take months of meticulous work in the French tapestry-crafting manufactures and workshops of Aubusson and the Creuse that specialise in the very same Aubusson tapestry techniques recognised by UNESCO, and added to the lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009..

Such a large project showcasing this major aspect of the author’s work has never been seen before. Using Aubusson tapestry craftsmanship to weave this series of 14 pieces based on the illustrative works of J.R.R. Tolkien is very innovative in the world of tapestry today. It creates a link to the great narrative wall-hangings (series of tapestries illustrating the different parts of a story) of the 17th and 18th centuries that made reference to important literary texts (Homer’s Odyssey, or Renaud and Armide taken from Torquato Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered, etc.). This direct link to literature was lost in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Today, in the 21st century, this project of weaving the illustrative works of J.R.R. Tolkien has an added originality: it benefits from illustrations created by the author of the literary works himself, which is a first in the history of great narrative wall hangings.

Every due respect will be given to the original works as the Cité de la tapisserie embarks on this heritage-based adventure of combining Aubusson tapestry, a major decorative art, with the illustrative works of J.R.R. Tolkien that are so suited to becoming history-in-the-making tapestries, embedded as they are in a ‘present-day mythology’. The sheer monumentality of this woven wall-hanging project will invite viewers to immerse themselves in the fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien as never before. In the wake of Charles Le Brun’s L’Histoire d’Alexandre (The History of Alexander) or Isaac Moillon’s L’Odyssée d’Ulysse (Ulysses’ Odyssey), it is now the illustrative and narrative universe of J.R.R. Tolkien that will live on through the ages alongside his books.