Textiles set the scene – Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall Rylance Cromwell tapestries
Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell from the BBC’s dramatisation of ‘Wolf Hall’
Interior walls enriched with tapestries and floor bedecked with sumptuous textiles.

It’s not often that I wish I had a gigantic television screen, but last week was one of those rare occasions. Watching the first episode of Wolf Hall I was captivated by the lustrous beauty of so many of the shots. The creativity, knowledge and skills of all the designers (costume, interior/set and lighting) came together and gave us, the viewers, an enticing version of the Tudor elite lifestyle – as long as you kept your head! The overall impression was that displaying luxury textiles was the key to the making of a lord, his lady and their noble abode.  And, of course, up until the Renaissance tapestries were the most high status wall coverings a wealthy individual could acquire.

(Above couple of my photos showing the natural lustre of hand painted silk.)

The critical reception of ‘Wolf Hall’ has been good although a few people have moaned about the dark lighting – apparently real candlelight in some instances. I thought the lighting was superb, and as somebody who is used to photographing silk you don’t want powerful harsh artificial light. It is the soft reflection of diffuse natural light from the surface of the silk that captures its rich lustre and intense hues.

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Author: agnesashe

Artisan, blogger and passionate East Anglian working from home.

10 thoughts on “Textiles set the scene – Wolf Hall”

  1. I’m determined to read the book first so thank you for no spoilers…besides your professional interest in the textiles, was it a good show? Your silk scarves are really beautifully photographed and you seem to have mastered the perfect lighting to show them at their best.

    1. Well, we’ve only seen one episode so far, but it certainly has captured the essence of the books and it is not remotely like an over-the-top, cartoon version of the Tudors. The script, the acting and direction are a reminder of how superb a TV series can be when it is comfortable with taking its material seriously and not afraid to ditch overwrought speedy cutting rates, loud explosions and gratuitous gore.

      (thanks for compliment re photos – I spend most time trying to get the colours identical on my computer screen only to find they look slightly different on my phone – you just can’t win!)

  2. I have a small TV and I was looking out for one of my favourites Jessica Raine, who I know is in it, but afterwards I looked her up and found she’s one of the Boleyn family and so imagined she might have been in Anne’s tapestry circle and I missed her as just being on the edge of my small TV.

    I was quite disappointed to discover that there’s not two series, but they’ve squished the two books into six episodes. I think that’s right. I don’t get why there was the rush, for both TV and theatre, to dramatise these two books before the third is written.

    1. Yes, I know what you mean maybe the TV and theatre people didn’t want to wait for ‘The Mirror and the Light’ in case Hilary Mantel got so disheartened with Cromwell’s tragic history she gave up writing it!! Six hours doesn’t seem long enough to me for the two books, but we’ll see.

      Depending on how they’ve dramatised this you may see more of Jessica Raine than just the sewing circle as she is playing Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford – wasn’t she somewhat poisonous in the novels?

      1. I could only imagine everyone panicked thinking someone else would snap the rights up first. And I did read both books, and did enjoy them, but there’s so much I can’t remember and so I’ll wait and see JR’s role. I know the Boleyn family was very big, power hungry, and manipulative and so I’m guess she’ll be mixed up in all that.

      2. You know if you look up their family trees the Boleyns, Howards and Tudors were all related to one another someway or other and they were all crushingly ambitious – makes you wonder how Wolsey and Cromwell ever rose so high – they must have been brilliant men.

  3. Hi Agnes, I have been trying to read Wolf Hall for about two months now, and have experienced too many interruptions and distractions to keep track of everyone! Anyhow, school hols just finished and all grand-children are now returned to their correct pigeonholes. As of this morning, my manuscript is back with the publisher after what I sincerely hope is the final, final, edit. (If penultimate is the second last of something – what is the word for the third last version?). And, after extremely hot and humid weather, we now seem to have some rain. So theoretically, the stars are now aligned for me to settle into Wolf Hall properly.

    1. So pleased to see your manuscript is back with the publishers – let’s hope it’s a wrap this time. Gosh when I read about hot and humid and school holidays it instantly shrinks the planet for me especially after yesterday’s ‘New York no snow show’ affair. I hope you can have a good run at Wolf Hall as I found that it totally gripped me and I’m not usually a reader/fan of historical fiction. Actually I’d rather felt that the Tudors had been done to death (!) recently, but I think Hilary Mantel is well-attuned to the current zeitgeist and now does feel right for Cromwell’s reputation to be reassessed again.

  4. I’m riveted by Wolf Hall (and Mark Rylance – but that’s another matter), though very glad to have read the books first or I might have been a bit lost. I love the lighting, and glad to feel that this has done the textiles a few favours too.

    1. Yes, I have just watched the second episode and was wondering how the folks who haven’t read the books are figuring out all the Thomases and Richards. I thought the second episode was better, more intense than the first and you begin to see Mark Rylance more as Mantel’s Cromwell particularly when he interacts with the King. Only six episodes though 😦

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