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A tapestry is a hand-woven textile. The designs are created by weft stitches across parts of a warp. Such textiles were often very sumptuous and served a number of different purposes in both secular and religious settings. They could be hung on walls or draped over furnishings. The designs were often made by painters; examples of cartoons or sketches for tapestries are included in the Collection.

The tapestries themselves were usually produced in 'factories' such as those established in the 17th century at Mortlake in London, and Les Gobelins in Paris. But the chief centre for the manufacture of tapestry in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries was the Low Countries.