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Holy Grail Tapestry - Quest for the Holy Grail Tapestries - Panel 1 - Knights of the Round Table Summoned to the Quest by the Strange Damsel

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Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

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Basic Information

Accession Number:1980M60
Collection:Applied Art - Textiles
Date:1898 - 1899

Maker Information

Designer:John Henry Dearle - View biography for John Henry Dearle
Designer:Sir Edward Burne-Jones - View biography for Sir Edward Burne-Jones
Designer:William Morris - View biography for William Morris
Manufacturer:Morris & Co - View history


This sequence of tapestries was originally designed for William Knox D'Arcy, for the dining room of his house, Stanmore Hall in Middlesex (see black and white image). It was the most extensive decoration scheme that the firm of Morris & Co completed. A set of ten were designed by Edward Burne-Jones, who produced the figurative designs, John Henry Dearle, who designed decorative detail, and William Morris, who designed the heraldry.

Several further versions were woven later, although the entire series was only repeated once, for D'Arcy's business partner, George McCulloch, in 1898-99. Birmingham's version of 'The Summons' is from the series produced for George McCulloch.

The subject matter is based on the 15th century text Le Morte D'Arthur (The Death of Arthur) by Sir Thomas Malory. It tells the story of the spiritual quest by the knights of King Arthur's round table for the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus and the disciples drank at the Last Supper.

Here the first scene of the story shows the damsel arriving at court and summoning the knights to the quest. King Arthur holds a gold staff and wears a crown. Sir Lancelot, also wearing a crown, is seated on the left. The other knights are Sir Bors, Sir Kay, Sir Lamorah, Sir Gawaine, Sir Palomedes, Sir Perceval, and Sir Hector de Marys. Sir Galahad, who is Sir Lancelot's son, and the only knight worthy of attaining the Holy Grail, is yet to arrive. He is represented by the empty chair, draped with a cloth bearing a Latin inscription and known as the 'Siege Perilous'.

Further Information

Production Period:19th century
School/Style:Arthurian Tapestry
Medium:Wool, silk, mohair and camel hair weft on cotton warp.

Associated People


Height:2450 mm
Width:5350 mm