Charles Stothard was an archaeological draftsman of great reputation and provided an essential and exact version of how the Tapestry looked in the early 19th century. He was the son of the painter Thomas Stothard and died tragically young.
The Bayeux Tapestry (actually an embroidery 230 feet long by 20 inches wide) describes the Norman invasion of England . The Tapestry was commissioned by Bishop Odo, bishop of Bayeux and the half-brother of William the Conqueror. On a sequential design/illustration course it repays study on the following grounds ;
It is deployed in about 75 scenes to be read from left to right. On occasions the narrative flow is reversed for important reasons. It depicts 623 people and requires consistency of characterisation. It lacks an ending - there may have been damage to the last section. It balances text and image. Its letterforms are consistent and legible.
It balances narrative schemes of some complexity with decorative borders that sometimes comment on the action. It uses exterior literary and mythic/fabulist references It has been shown to reflect the pictorial conventions of another medium - manuscript illumination. It depicts still and moving poses. It achieves an excellent balance between the private and the public and between the domestic and the mythic
The publication most recommended is Professor David Bernstein's The Mystery of the Bayeux Tapestry Guild London 1986 which provides a drab black and white photographic guide to the flow of the narrative with beautifully researched text and a sensible interpretation of the nuances that challenge the obvious crystallisation of the Tapestry as the Victor's Commemoration of Victory.

 

ARCHITECTURE

The early scene where William and Harold are shown together on a military campaign, ends when they return to Bayeux (spelt "Bagias" for some unknown reason) and Harold swears to advance William's cause in the succession to the English throne.
 All through the Tapestry, eccentric buildings - almost cartoon-like in feeling - are used as vertical narrative spacers. "HERE DUKE HAROLD RETURNS TO ENGLISH SOIL" An observer on a balcony in the port town joins with other citizens who anxiously await their Duke's return from foreign parts.

BATTLES AND CONFLICT

The very format allows a sweeping and powerful evocation of th large rushings of horsed warriors in battle. In an earlier section William and Harold's joint forces beseige and overcome the men of Dinan and Conan.
 
The details above relate to amarvellous scene from this campaign depicting the undermining of the Castle and such fanciful Disneyesque architecture around the battlements.
 
Harold subsequently usurps William's rights and the Normans mobilise for Invasion.

FRAMING STRIP
The border that adds direction and substance to the edges also contains elements that comment on the narrative above/beneath - either through specific references - animals trying to see the action - or to Aesop's Fables (the wolf and the crane, the fox and the crow )
 
Above are three examples of details from the border
with one of Stothard's most elaborate details to show the embroidery stitch.

 

COMPOSITIONAL FEATURES

'HERE DUKE WILLIAM'S SOLDIERS FIGHT' ABOVE

AND BELOW IS THE STANDARD FORMAT of the rolling narrative handed on like a baton, with 'decorative strips' at top and bottom.
 
AND HERE THE SERVANTS SERVED IT UP
HERE THEY MADE A BANQUET
AND HERE THE BISHOP BLESSES THE FOOD AND DRINK Like all interesting pictorial narratives the conventions are challenged every now and then - here to represent the slipping away of a ship from England to tell William in Normandy of Harold's 'treachery'. The figure to the right wades ashore carrying an anchor.

HERE AN ENGLISH SHIP CAME
TO THE LAND OF DUKE WILLIAM
trans.
The decorative strips suddenly provide a reference in the shape of a fish

DESIGN ELEMENTS

Three examples from Stothard of the characteristic letterforms used. The first example is interesting to give the feeling of the letters created by embroidery thread.
"HERE A MESSAGE IS BROUGHT TO HAROLD"
"HERE SITS HAROLD, KING OF THE ENGLISH"
"AND CAME TO BATTLE AGAINST KING HAROLD"

 

PICTURES OF HAROLD

 
Harold Godwinson was one of three contenders for the English Throne on the death of Edward the Confessor -with William, Duke of Normandy and Harald Hardrada, King of Norway.
 Throughout the Tapestry the designers have clearly identified the English with characteristic moustaches and haircuts.
 
HERE SITS HAROLD
KING OF THE ENGLISH
trans.text
 
The scene where the English Nobles crown Harold on the strength of his kinship and Edward's supposed wishes ; to the right is the figure of Archbishop Stigand
 
In adjacent panels the populace celebrate and Halley's Comet appears as a solemn and ominous portent in the sky

LETTERING


Three examples from Stothard of the characteristic letterforms used. The first example is interesting to give the feeling of the letters created by embroidery thread.
 "HERE A MESSAGE IS BROUGHT TO HAROLD"
"HERE SITS HAROLD, KING OF THE ENGLISH"
"AND CAME TO BATTLE AGAINST KING HAROLD"

 

A MYSTERY


"HERE DUKE WILLIAM WITH HAROLD, CAME TO HIS PALACE.. WHERE A CLERK AND AELFGYVA..."
(the verb is missing)
 
Bernstein scents a sexual scandal - but it is the sole depiction of a gesture of tenderness in the entire Tapestry.

HUMAN ACTS


English Nobles follow the funeral bier of Edward - a section in the Tapestry where the narrative switches to a right to left format
 
"THE BODY OF KING EDWARD IS CARRIED
TO THE CHURCH OF ST.PETER THE APOSTLE"
Felling Trees
Planing Timber
and shipwrights at work on the hull of a ship before the great invasion.
An early scene from the tapestry where a renegase Breton vassal escapes down a rope from a castle under siege. Very delicate and well observed anatomical detail.
Horsemen in Harold's entourage on his return to England from the joint military campaign with William.