Partnership contemporary projects

Aubusson weaves Tolkien


The fantasy world of J.R.R. Tolkien to be woven as Aubusson tapestries

The Cité internationale de la Tapisserie in Aubusson, France, has just signed an agreement with the Tolkien Estate for the creation over the course of four years of a series of 13 tapestries and one carpet based on original graphic works by J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973), who started painting and drawing as a child, and continued to do so throughout his entire life.

The “Aubusson weaves Tolkien” project will recreate in woven form 14 Tolkien illustrations which have been jointly selected by the Tolkien Estate and the Cité internationale de la Tapisserie for this purpose.

Thirteen wall-hanging tapestries will represent paintings made by the author for his children for Christmas, as well as illustrations from his world-famous works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

The fourteenth piece, the Numenorean Carpet, will be a tapestry floor-covering of more than 130 square metres.

Bilbo tapestry to be woven in Aubusson

J.R.R. Tolkien, Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raft-Elves, The Hobbit, chap. IX, 1937. Watercolour on paper. One of the five watercolour paintings by the author included in the first American edition of The Hobbit, that is to become a Bilbo tapestry. © The Tolkien Estate Limited 1937.


The first step will be the realisation, from the chosen Tolkien works, of the cartoons, or scale models, to be used as guides by Aubusson’s artisan weavers to create the tapestries themselves.

No project show-casing Tolkien’s artistic work in this way has been undertaken before. For the first time, the individual pieces will be treated as a collection depicting Tolkien’s uniquely ‘Anglo-Saxon’ mythology, in the style of the great wall-hangings of the 17th century, which encapsulated iconographic subjects inspired by great narrative works such as The History of Alexander by Charles Le Brun or Ulysses’ Odyssey by Isaac Moillon. The time has now come for the graphic universe of J.R.R. Tolkien to be presented in a unique artistic and historical light.

Photograph of Tolkien, believed to date from the 1930s. Bodleian Shelf Mark MS. Tolkien photogr. 10, fol. 2. © Tolkien Trust 1978, 1992.


2017 Programme:

- Creation of 14 cartoons to final tapestry scale, following the 14 artworks:

Letter from Father Christmas, 1926
Letter from Father Christmas, 1928
Letter from Father Christmas, 1933
Glórund sets forth to seek Túrin
Halls of Manwë – Taniquetil
The Trolls
Bilbo woke up with the Early Sun in his Eyes
Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raft-Elves
Conversation with Smaug
The Forest of Lothlórien in Spring
Númenórean Carpet ;

- Selection of weaver workshops in the Aubusson-Felletin region to be commissioned for weaving, through sample submissions.


This project reconnects with the tradition of great narrative hangings woven from literary works in the 17th and 18th centuries.
To take a behind the scenes look at the project, a presentation space will be open in the Cité internationale de la tapisserie in Aubusson to help visitors understand the production process of the cartoons meant to guide the weavers for these exceptional weavings that will constitute this Middle-Earth and Lord of the Rings hanging :  from 30th June and until 31st December 2017, visitors will be introduced to the delicate art of Aubusson tapestry, diving into the Middle-Earth as J. R. R. Tolkien imagined it. Then, from mid-November, visitors will be able to follow the weaving of the first tapestry of the hanging in the weaving workshop provided by the Cité de la tapisserie on its second floor.

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