Michael Linton's Bayeux Tapestry: 1066 - A Medieval Mosaic and Puzzles
A Medieval Mosaic Masterpiece Recreated
News Article Details
- Publication: VIP Canterbury
- Author: Sally Hill
- Date: 01-07-2005
What does the tiny South Canterbury town of Geraldine have in common with a famous French town? Both are home to a major tourist attraction — the Bayeux Tapestry. The original tapestry, in France, depicts in wool on a strip of linen 231 feet long by 19 inches wide, more than 70 scenes of the 1066 Norman Conquest of England. In Geraldine, behind the 'Giant Jersey' shop (of Guinness Book of Records fame), artist Michael Linton, and daughter Rachael, have recreated the tapestry as a stunning metal mosaic, using approximately 2,000,000-minute pieces of spring steel.
This twenty-five year labour of love and voyage of discovery began in 1979 while Michael was a textile the wedge shaped pieces of spring steel broken off knitting machine patterning discs fascinated him.
Michael says, "I liked playing around with the chips, creating patterns and pictures."
Painstakingly, the metal chips were mounted on adhesive masking tape, grouted with Kiwi shoe polish, and shined.
Realising an affinity between his created material and chain mail worn in the medieval era, he decided to create a series of detailed mosaics of medieval subjects and coats of arms. These black and silver mosaics depicting effigies and brass rubbings taken from English churches were so successful that he decided to produce something in colour. Inspiration came from an article about the Bayeux Tapestry in the August 1966 National Geographic. The medieval theme was perfectly suited to Michael's medium.
He spent years preparing preliminary drawings and creating the metal base before faithfully reproducing the ancient work, ensuring every detail was true to the original.
Michael encoded an intricate puzzle into his amazing mosaic for all to seek and try to solve.
As yet no one has succeeded. Incredibly, during later research, he discovered documentation in early medieval manuscripts stating puzzles were sometimes encoded in dots and dashes in works of that era. He suspects that the original Bayeux tapestry has a puzzle woven into it as there are dashes in the borders and dots amongst the Latin wording.
Painstakingly, the metal chips were mounted on adhesive masking tape, grouted with Kiwi shoe polish, and shined. The tapestry came to life as the characters were painted onto the steel in enamel, chip by chip, with one, and only one, minute 00-paintbrush. On completion, each panel was polyurethaned and mounted.
Michael's artistic odyssey did not end here. Historians believe the original Bayeux tapestry had two missing panels depicting the three month period between the Battle of Hastings, 14th October 1066, until Christmas Day 1066, when William the Conqueror was crowned King of England. Michael sought to complete these.
His daughter, Rachael, a fourth year design student at Massey University in Wellington, spent three years accurately researching historical and contemporary literature on every aspect of the period to truthfully depict the missing events. As a period piece, accuracy was extremely important in regard to people, events and culture of the era, while still maintaining the artistic style, colour and composition of the original tapestry.
Rachael designed the artwork, Michael stuck, painted and polyurethaned the mosaic canvas, before mounting it for public viewing. At last, the tapestry's story has reached its conclusion. The work now has added interest and the importance it truly deserves. A tribute to Michael and Rachael's achievement is the fact that only an expert can tell where the original artwork ends.
As a supplement to the mosaic, Michael, and son Steven, a computer science graduate, developed an amazing interactive CD Rom. This includes; clues to the encoded puzzle within the mosaic, a full description of the artwork, its historical relevance, full text books and extracts written by Medieval Historians, Latin text with English translations, four hundred and sixty fables by Aesop and Phaedrus, one hundred scene descriptions, photos, genealogy, astrology, brass rubbings, as well as Michael's Magic Cube and one hundred and forty-four Alphametic Puzzles.
Michael gives daily talks on the construction of the mosaic and history of the original Bayeux Tapestry, relating some strange and interesting stories such as during the French Revolution, when it was going to be used as a wrap-around to protect a wagon's contents. Luckily, a member of Bayeux's City Council saved it at the last minute. Halley's Comet, visible in the night sky of 1066, was incorporated into the design of the original tapestry. Both Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler used this fact in campaigns as a propaganda tool, claiming the appearance of the Comet was propitious for successful invasion.
The complexity of the tapestry, the stories and history are so comprehensive, that the more one delves the more one understands the fascination of this unique historical artifact and why Michael Linton has dedicated the last twenty-five years to this project.