The fifty thousand objects in the Museum's comprehensive and historically important collection of European sculpture and decorative arts reflect the development of a number of art forms in Western European countries from the early fifteenth through the early twentieth century. The holdings include sculpture in many sizes and media, woodwork and furniture, ceramics and glass, metalwork and jewelry, horological and mathematical instruments, and tapestries and textiles. Ceramics made in Asia for export to European markets and sculpture and decorative arts produced in Latin America during this period are also included among these works.
Posted: Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Accompanying the exhibition
is a fully illustrated Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry catalogue by the same name. This lavish publication, the first comprehensive volume devoted to this Renaissance master since 1966, includes new, exceptionally detailed images of many of the exhibition's tapestries. The man behind most of these, and so many other, beautiful images is Bruce White, award-winning photographer and long-time Met collaborator. Bruce and I recently discussed his thoughts on tapestries, photography, and beauty.
Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2014
A tapestry designer, painter, draftsman, and publisher of architectural treatises, Pieter Coecke van Aelst was quite literally a Renaissance man. Though he was a master of many media while active from the 1520s until his death in 1550, his contributions have been largely forgotten today.
, the catalogue accompanying the Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry exhibition currently on view through January 11, 2015, covers much more than just the artist's tapestries and aims to fill the nearly fifty-year gap in the literature on this great artist. I spoke with the catalogue's author, Associate Curator Elizabeth A. H. Cleland, about the book, her interest in Coecke, and why she thinks this Northern Renaissance master has been neglected in recent scholarship.
Posted: Tuesday, October 14, 2014
A stop-action movie documenting the installation of the Museum's Gluttony tapestry in the exhibition
Nineteen extraordinarily large Renaissance tapestries adorn the walls of
. These pieces, measuring between twelve and thirty feet in length, weigh an average of one hundred pounds, and they took two weeks to install in the exhibition gallery. During the Renaissance, large tapestries hung from metal hooks and ropes, but today, with an eye toward preserving and protecting these delicate pieces, the Museum's Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry Department of Textile Conservation utilizes a special hanging method that minimizes the risk of damage to the tapestries. The video above captures the process of hanging the (one piece from a Gluttony tapestry seven-piece series depicting the Seven Deadly Sins, designed by Pieter Coecke around 1532–34), now on display in the exhibition.
Posted: Tuesday, October 7, 2014
At its best, tapestry is a mesmerizing art form, but it's an aspect of art history that has been largely overlooked by scholars. If you pick up any standard history of European arts, it's all about painters, sculptors, and architects. This exclusion of tapestries from the narrative of art history, however, is not an accurate reflection of the importance of the medium in shaping and defining the style of some of history's most influential artists. While Raphael and Rubens, for example, are among the most exceptional of painters, their designs for tapestries are every bit as remarkable. The truth is that few artists rarely work with just one medium. During the Renaissance in particular, tapestry was the most important figurative art, collected by the wealthiest and most powerful patrons, and was therefore a medium in which prominent artists strove to work.
The Met addresses one such remarkable artist in the exhibition
, on view October 8, 2014, through January 11, 2015. Coecke was truly a Renaissance master of all disciplines who achieved immense fame in his lifetime, though in the literature the overwhelming genius of his tapestry designs is often bypassed in favor of critique of his panel paintings and drawings. Certainly, to many of his contemporaries, Coecke's most admired works were his tapestry designs. In Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry Grand Design, the breadth of Coecke's work is explored by reuniting nineteen of his most beautiful tapestries with more than thirty of his prints and drawings and seven of his panel paintings.
Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Welcome to the exhibition blog for
, which opens in Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelst and Renaissance Tapestry Gallery 899 October 8. Over the next thirteen weeks, while the exhibition is on view, my colleagues and I will take advantage of this blog to provide additional insight and commentary about the works on view, to hear from visitors to the exhibition (whether online or "in real life"), and, ideally, to spark a conversation about Pieter Coecke van Aelst, who, although no longer a household name, was one of the greatest Netherlandish artists of the sixteenth century.
Posted: Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Understanding an art object requires close observation and an interdisciplinary course of investigation that integrates the work of curators and conservators, the arts and the sciences. This work, however, is often done behind a curtain (so to speak), and visitors rarely have the opportunity to gain insight into the process. On August 4, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will unveil the secret world of curators and conservators with its latest installation in
Gallery 599, . This one-room exhibition will give visitors a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the fascinating and indispensable questions Museum curators and conservators pose as they investigate six luxurious, late Renaissance tapestry-woven cushion covers depicting scenes from the lives of biblical figureheads Abraham and Isaac. Examining Opulence: A Set of Renaissance Tapestry Cushions
Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014
As I travel through the galleries of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one question always lingers in my mind: If these inanimate objects were able to speak, what would they say? I have taken on the task of "interviewing" three sculptures to break their silence and give us more insight into their lives and stories.
Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Many #tapestrytuesday readers have asked why some tapestries in the Met's collection have such diverse color palettes. As it turns out, the question you should be asking isn't "Why?" but "Dye?" Understanding the preservation or degradation of a tapestry's color is a complex sort of query whose answer is largely influenced by the dyes used to color its threads. To help unravel the mystery of tapestry colors, I recently sat down for a fascinating lesson in dyeing with two of the Museum's tapestry experts: Cristina Carr, conservator in the Department of Textile Conservation; and Nobuko Shibayama, associate research scientist in the Department of Scientific Research.
Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2014
In the world of tapestry, it's hip to be square—or rectangular, for that matter. Why, you ask? The answer is quite simple: borders.
You might have noticed that a decorative, tapestry-woven strip traces the edges of many tapestries, which is referred to as the border. While the border is very much a part of the physical tapestry itself, it often has a personality all its own. And, while some border designs were reused on multiple sets of unrelated tapestries, these ornamental edges can still be thought of as something like a thumbprint, a distinguishing characteristic that is apparent only upon close inspection.