Quest to save the tapestry knights is launched

Four Victorian works of art were mutilated while in private hands, reports David Keys

Four previously lost Victorian tapestries - internationally important work based on cartoons by the Arts and Crafts painters and designers Sir Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris - are to go on public display for the first time in 70 years.

But a massive repair and conservation programme has had to be launched on the tapestries because they had been appallingly treated while in private hands over the past 40 years.

They form part of the world's most important group of 19th-century tapestries - the Quest of the Holy Grail, produced in the studios of William Morris in the 1890s. They are arguably among Britain's most significant Victorian works of art.

However, in the Fifties they were allowed to be exported and while in private ownership in Spain three of the masterpieces had sections cut out of them and the largest tapestry was sliced in four. One work had an entire figure chopped out of it.

Now experts at the Textile Conservation Centre at Hampton Court in south- west London are busy repairing some of the damage and conserving the tapestries as a whole. The works were so badly soiled that they had to be chemically treated at a special facility in Belgium.

The four were sold at Christie's last year for just over pounds 1m to the Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation, which is paying for their conservation and is lending them to several art galleries over the next year.

The tapestries will go on display at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, on 13 September, and in 1996 will be shown in Gateshead and South Shields, both in Tyne and Wear, and Bradford, West Yorkshire. The works were last exhibited in 1925 at the Victoria and Albert Museum, south-west London.

These particular works were woven in 1898, the year Burne-Jones died. He had valued the story of the grail as perhaps the greatest artistic subject in the world.

"Lord! How that San Graal [Holy Grail] story is ever in my mind and thoughts continually. Was ever anything in the world beautiful as that is beautiful? If I might clear away all the work that I have begun, if I might live and clear it all away and dedicate the last days to that tale - if only I might," he wrote.

The Lloyd Webber Art Foundation has set itself the task of acquiring a collection of top-grade masterpieces which it intends to lend out to art galleries around the country,

Collecting started in 1991 and so far the foundation has spent some pounds 44m on eight works of art, including the pounds 1m it spent on the tapestries in 1994. A Picasso was acquired for pounds 30m three months ago.

t Next year is the centenary of William Morris's death and the Victoria and Albert Museum is planning a major exhibition on his life and work.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk