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 was BBC2's most popular drama since modern records began in 2002, with an average of 4.4 million viewers per episode.
In the Middle Ages textiles were a symbol of wealth and were therefore an important element of the BBC’s Wolf Hall. The BBC wanted accurate reproductions of centuries-old originals but with subtle alterations made to suit the modern script and cast.
The Devonshire Hunting Series was used for most of the tapestries, being of the correct historical period (1510-1520). However, the BBC also wanted to use the original tapestry Salomon Et La Reine De Saba, which is referenced throughout Hilary Mantel’s novel. This proved quite a challenge but enquiries eventually led Zardi & Zardi to a French collection with a very good example of the tapestry. However, the museum was closed for major renovation work but access to the tapestries was eventually negotiated, with some great results.
Using 21st century technologies Zardi & Zardi digitally manipulated the tapestry of Esther and Ahasuerus so that Esther Clasps her hands in the same way as Anne Boleyn in a key scene with Henry VIII (Damian Lewis). The hair and eyes were also changed to match the colouring of actress Claire Foy.