The title Millefleurs refers to a floral design that was popular for wall hangings in the Middle Ages. The Millefleurs were a separate category within the Verdures: green tapestries with a background and border almost entirely filled with leaves.
From the 13th century, weavers started to incorporate images of Bible stories as well as hunting, harvest and battle scenes into the wall hangings. The design of the border also changed with the times and could include images of flowers, fruits and sometimes vegetables, combined with birds and other animals. The late Renaissance saw the addition of medallions depicting scenes related to the main theme of the tapestry. Borders were designed in line with the current fashion, which explains why they were sometimes ruthlessly cut off again at a later stage.
These wall hangings had two purposes: decoration and insulation. The most important production centre in the 16th century was in the southern Low Countries. When rolled up, the tapestries were easy to move, hence their nickname ‘mobile frescoes of the North’.
The tapestries became an important export product and they were often designed by well-known artists like Karel van Mander and Peter Paul Rubens. King Philip II of Spain was an enthusiastic collector. When he died, he left a total of 701 wall tapestries, divided over 100 series.
The arrival of wallpaper in the 18th century eventually put an end to the need for wall tapestries.
My Millefleurs are scarves, designed around the theme of suburbia. When I think of suburbia, I think of home. In the late fifties, a new residential area was developed in the town where I was born. That’s where our new home was going to be. The neighbourhood was characterised by detached houses with a garden, a driveway and a garage. During that same period, the so-called ‘garden towns’ were developed in the city where I’m currently living. These suburbs were characterised by space, greenery, water and playgrounds. That’s where the modern family wanted to live. Advertisements from that time were promoting the latest household equipment. It was the beginning of a new era. A time of progress. The beginning of the modern consumer society.
My memory of the new suburbs shows blue skies and houses under construction. All new things were embraced. The future was celebrated. Threats were shut out.
Regarding the form
The grid system is a technique I often use. By placing a grid on top of a photograph, you can create a sequence in one picture. That’s how it becomes a design.
The background of my Millefleurs is a photograph of my neighbour’s house under construction. I used it before as the last picture in a series published in Arcadia (2017). In this book, I followed my neighbour from 2015 until 2018, when he was building his own dream house on the site next door to me. Today, the unfinished house still remains practically uninhabitable.
Mémé Bartels, August 2019