Painted cloth has been found as early as the eighth century, using various minerals and plants which were ground into pigments with a media such as egg yolk (tempera), and sizing made ingredients such as fish parts or glue from the hides of animals, and then sealed with coats of gesso combined with a sizing mixture. Stained cloth (also known as “printed cloth”) has been in existence since 23 A.D., The oldest examples having been found in the 6th century A.D., in the tomb of Saint Caesarius of Arles, using woodcuts, plant dyes and wax. Cloth Printing continued well into the eighteenth century, lending itself to more elaborate designs and patterns.
Painted cloth was an affordable option to the elaborate woven and embroidered tapestries or cloth made by local weavers and borderers or purchased from merchants dealing in imported textiles.
Craftsmen dealing with pigment within the middle ages were classified as Painter-Stainers (peynters / stayners, steyners), dealing with the art of painting cloth or printing cloth which involved stain applied to carved wood blocks (woodcuts) to produce a repetitive pattern. Embroiderers worked closely with these craftsmen in producing designs for the tapestries of the embroiderers, noted in Cennino Cennini's Libro dell 'Arte that the painter will act as designer, explaining how to use charcoal and fixing a drawing with ink on damp cloth.1 In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries painters/stainers were formed into guilds, depending on the medium and materials which they worked in and by the fifteenth century, become quite popular, which they were then separated into their specific crafts.2 The trades of these craftsmen were guarded to anyone outside their craft, resulting in feuds between guilds when apprentices from one specific guild were hired within another.3 Painted cloth was produced by the Flemish, English, Italians, Germans and French and were frequently used for home decoration and in the sixteenth century it was customary to decorate one's home with large painted clothes of various images as a replacement of more costly tapestries.3 Painted cloth also adorned churches in the way of alter cloths, used for military standards, banners, and wall hangings, and were primarily commissioned works of art.