This is a question that has webbed its way throughout history as different cultures have used many different ways of story telling over the years.
I have decided to look at many of the different methods that have been used from hundreds of years ago to present day.
I have decided to look at columns, more specifically the 40m tall Trajan Column located in Rome. This amazing column tells a story of battle, construction, overcoming obstacles and is over an astounding 1,900 years old! Estimated to have been built in 113AD, the column has been preserved beautifully.
I think Trajan Column is almost like an ancient comic strip… only a little too high for people to see. To see an astounding 360 degree view of this column click on this link or copy and paste the url below into your browser:
Another variant of a ‘column’ type story telling format is a totem pole. Native to northwestern United States and Canada’s western province, British Columbia, these unique wooden columns carved from tall trees can be used in a variety of different ways including storytelling of important events and portraying certain characteristics of the clan who carved them.
Columns aren’t always used for storytelling however, in fact their most common use is within structures either for decoration or structural reasons. I’ve seen them used for war statues and memorials too, they are basically there to make things look important.
One of the best known examples of a column is the one that stands in Trafalgar Square, London.
Makes for a beautiful landmark
The story will last for a ‘long’ time before it’s eroded
Displays the cultures craftsmanship
Sometimes only the people who made them can interpret their meaning
You have to walk around the column to read it, resulting in dizziness
It’s too tall to read without the aid of a cherry picker
The stone could erode over time
Should the pillar fall down there will be no way of telling which order the events depicted happened
Tapestries are basically stories/scenes sewn onto fabric using coloured thread, sewn by hand, that will eventually make a picture.
There have been many historical tapestries discovered from around the world
Scotland, even as seen in the movie Brave by Disney features the main character and her mother creating a tapestry together, this tapestry symbolises family and is very important to them, thus emphasising how their meanings vary & that they can represent very important personal meanings. The kind of tapestries I’ve been looking at in particular are medievil tapestries as these are some of the most decorative ones used to depict a scene from our history.
In Britain, Scotland and all around the world people used tapestries as a decorative story board, often the rich families would hang these in their homes to show their importance as the time, money and skill required to create one of these wasn’t cheap, even back then.
Quite often the tapestries were used to show imaginary scenes or gods such as the one with the unicorn (goaticorn?) which shows they weren’t only used to show historical events, they were also used to tell stories.
To find out about a few different types of medieval tapestries such as King Arthur and Camelot tapestries, click this link.
Religious events and symbols are commonly found on tapestries in churches, chapels etc. As you can see below DaVinci’s painting of “the last supper” has been transferred to a tapestry, most likely so it can be hung on a religious site.
^ Hestia Tapestry
^ Bayeux Tapestry (shows the events leading up to the Norman conquest of Englandconcerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings.)
^ Cloth of St Gereon (Second oldest tapestry in existence within Europe, it’s a motif of a bull being attacked by a griffin)
Looking into the modern age Tapestries are only really used as an alternative to pictures when it comes to decorative art, below are a couple of examples:
There aren’t any meanings to these tapestries other than being purely aesthetic. These can be bought for fairly cheap on places like Etsy, Not on the highstreet etc.
When it comes to modern art, tapestries are few and far between. Whilst on the hunt for modern tapestries with a meaning/story behind them I came across a rather interesting artist named Grayson Perry, he has created what is said to be a spin off of the Bayeux Tapestry that I mentioned previously :
Of course this has nothing to do with the battle of hastings, instead this tapestry is named “Walthamstow Tapestry” and depicts the journey of life and death itself via the brands we use throughout our lives. This tapestry is scarily accurate, it even made me a little emotional when I saw some of the brands my Nannan uses towards the end of the tapestry. This beautiful work of art is almost telling us that we are all the same, we all live, consume, give back then die eventually.
Beautiful pieces or artwork
Shows care about the topic being shown
Display of craftsmanship
Very time consuming
Has to be big to fit some stories on
Takes a long time to figure out what the story is about/story can be mistaken
Erodes over time
Expensive to make (the old way)