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Master: The Story of Abraham Series
Item: The Separation of Abraham and Lot, Genesis Ch. 13, v. 8-9

Luxury hangings for royal residences

British School, 16th century

The Field of the Cloth of Gold c. 1545

RCIN 405794

Wolsey Room 1, Hampton Court Palace

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Keen to establish himself as a powerful player in Europe, Henry VIII (1491–1547) arranged a series of engagements with continental rulers in 1520, including one with Francis I of France. Travelling across the Channel to Calais, the king stayed in a temporary palace rapidly assembled weeks before the event. The dignity and splendour of his court consequently relied heavily on furnishings that were easily movable – particularly tapestries. The rooms of the palace were designed with spaces for hangings, as well as for lavish velvets, known as 'cloth of gold', from which the event takes its name. The chapel was hung with 'Tappettes embraudered with riche worke fret with pearles and stones'. 

Many observers commented on the quality of the tapestries they saw, suggesting that they were an important part of the look and feel of the event. Edward Hall described 'marveilous clothes of Arras wroughte of golde and silke, compassed of many auncient stories, with which clothes of Arras, every wall and chambers were hanged, and all the wyndowes so covered, that it passed all other sightes before seen'.