Loja Saarinen and Eliel Saarinen – Study for the Festival of the May Queen Tapestry – 1932

Photographer unknown.

Loja Saarinen and Eliel Saarinen (Loja Saarinen (Designer) and Eliel Saarinen (Designer and Draftsman))

Study for the Festival of the May Queen Tapestry, 1932

Loja: Born 1879, Helsinki, Finland; operated Studio Loja Saarinen at Cranbrook, 1928–1942; Cranbrook Academy of Art, Head of Department of Weaving and Textile Design, 1929–1942; died 1968, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
Eliel: Born 1873, Rantasalmi, Finland; Cranbrook, Resident Architect, 1925–1950: Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAA), President, 1932–1946: CAA Director of Department of Architecture and Urban Design, 1946–1950; died 1950, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Watercolor and gouache with pencil underdrawing on tracing paper
28 ½ x 26 ½ inches
Gift of Kingswood School Cranbrook
CAM 1981.12

The Festival of the May Queen Tapestry celebrates a revered rite of spring at Cranbrook. The May Queen stands beneath a highly stylized tree filled with white birds and receives edible tribute from a handmaid while the Queen’s attendants wrap her in a red garland. Designed by Loja and Eliel Saarinen together, it emphasizes the harmonious relationship between human social activity and burgeoning nature in this season of renewal. The elements of queen, court, pet, fauna and flora provide a charming and apt decoration for Eliel’s splendid dining hall in the original girls’ school at Cranbrook.

This watercolor study, prepared in 1932 by Eliel, displays the fully realized content of the richly woven Kingswood Dining Hall tapestry but with a twist: the figures in the watercolor have been reversed in the tapestry—the handmaid with platter serves from the Queen’s right side. Initially, Loja used this watercolor to weave a panel of the girl in pantaloons for a preliminary study. The full tapestry, completed in 1934, still adorns the Kingswood Dining Hall today.

Jeffrey Welch
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Category(s): Textiles

Decade(s): 1930s

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