Tapestries are a handwoven textile or cloth weave, typically decorated with figures, and used as a wall hanging, curtain, carpet, or furniture covering. The term tapestry has also been used to identify any pictorial weaving.
The earliest known tapestry weaving was done by the Egyptians in the 15th century BC. Greek and Roman tapestries are known primarily from literary sources. Silk tapestries called k'o-ssu have long been produced in China, and the earliest surviving examples come from the Tang dynasty (AD 618-907). In the late 15th century the tapestry technique was brought from China to Japan.
During the 19th century most tapestries were machine woven and reproduced paintings or previously woven designs for the new middle-class market. Late in the century, however, a genuine revival in tapestry was spearheaded by a reaction to English industrialism. In the 1930s most tapestries were copies of works by contemporary artists.
Tapestries considered truly modern emerged beginning in the 1950s. Their monumental size and bulky nontraditional materials clearly relate to the austerity and scale of modern architecture. A contemporary tapestry may be constructed with many different techniques. Twentieth-century textiles are recognized as individual creations along with painting and sculpture.