BBC2's historical drama Wolf Hall chronicles the rise of Thomas Cromwell, the son of a humble blacksmith who became King Henry VIII's chief minister, as he navigated the corridors of power in the Tudor Court. The acclaimed Hilary Mantel adaptation is BBC2's most popular drama since modern records began in 2002, with an average of 4.4 million viewers per episode. Starring Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell, Damian Lewis as Henry VIII of England, and Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn, Wolf Hall was broadcast weekly on BBC2 beginning January 2015.
Commissioned in 2014 by Company Pictures, Zardi & Zardi made replicas of three celebrated tapestries from the historic collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. As a registered licensee of the museum, we were able to work closely with the V&A who undertook a considerable amount of research to source each tapestry. Not only did the enormous textiles have to match the correct historical period (1510-1520) but they also needed to depict the mood of the production. The religious scene of Esther and Ahasuerus was selected from the V&A Collection as well as two tapestries from our portfolio, from the Devonshire Hunting series. In addition to these tapestries, Zardi & Zardi were also commissioned to replicate the famous Salomon et la Reine de Saba tapestry which we specially sourced from the Musée Grobet-Labadié in Marseille, France.
A major part of the project involved Zardi & Zardi re-designing the Esther and Ahasuerus tapestry to meet the requirements of Wolf Hall's Artistic Director. The tapestry plays a prominent part during a scene with Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII. The shot shows Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy) holding her hands in a clasp position; Zardi & Zardi edited the tapestry to portray Esther holding her hands in the same clasp, as well as editing both her hair and eye colour to mirror those of Anne Boleyn’s.
Using cutting-edge digital techniques and equipment, the designs were then printed onto linen and hand stitched together to create vast wall-hangings, which can be seen throughout the series.
“It was a very enjoyable project and presented some exciting challenges”, says Zardi & Zardi Director PJ Keeling, “The most notable for me was the sourcing of the original ‘Salomon et la Reine de Saba’; as this tapestry is referenced throughout the novel, it was of great importance that we found the correct piece. Our investigations lead us to a museum in the South of France, which had a very good example of the tapestry. But to our dismay, we also discovered that the museum was closed for major renovation work! However, in the end we managed to negotiate access and the finished result is marvellous”.