We set aside a day to visit the Tapestry Museum in Portalegre. It is a fascinating and unexpected museum in the far east of Portugal, and close to the Spanish border. Portalegre is only a half hour drive from Flor da Rosa and a new motorway made the journey quick and easy.
A brief history of the Tapestry Museum in Portalegre
And although the building seems old and traditional on the outside, clearly a palace at one point, the inside is clean and contemporary like many of the museums in Portugal – a lesson to the UK?
The technical details
There are more than 7,000 shades of wool from which too choose, and then 8 strands of thin wool are combined to create the desired colour or texture. The tapestry is of course hand-woven.
The starting point for a new tapestry is a drawing or painting by a contemporary artist. A copy is made of the art work and then this is transferred to graph paper. Here each small square represents a knot in the finished tapestry. Colours are numbered. The tapestry is made by knotting the wool around each warp thread instead of weaving in and out across the warp, which is the traditional, French method. The Portuguese technique is more accurate and the results are finer. There are between 25,000 – 100,000 knots/sq metre! 2
Examples of tapestries in the museum
The Tapestry Museum in Portalegre is just stunning! And I suspect very few visitors to Portugal will have heard of it. I am happy to visit every time I am there.