Guest post by Kate Myerscough
At Oregeon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, the viewing public will soon be able to experience the famous Barberini Tapestries as they were originally envisioned: huge, enveloping and awe-inspiring. This exciting new exhibition is simply titled The Barberini Tapestries: Woven Monuments of Baroque Rome.
The collection of 17th century Italian tapestries were designed by the Baroque master Giovanni Franceso Romanelli for the nephew of Pope Urban VII, Cardinal Franceso Barberini. Woven in the Cardinal’s workshop, this collection of tapestries was somewhat of an anomaly, revealing itself as an Italian masterpiece fit to compete with the leading French and Dutch tapestries widely considered to be the best of their time.
The Barberini works are over 15 feet tall and vary between 12 and 19 feet in length – each occupying a massive surface specifically designed to overwhelm. At the time of their making, tapestries were a popular medium for a range of different reasons. Coveted not only for their beauty, they were also a means of insulation in draughty rooms, and thus became the go-to art form whenever somebody wanted to combine their home’s grandeur with a touch of cosiness.
In the 17th century, one of the main purposes of such large-scale tapestries was to impress people with their sheer extravagance, so it’s no wonder that wraparound tapestries were so popular with European nobility too. This exhibition at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum aims to recreate this sense of awe, displaying the tapestries in a room within a room, enveloping the viewer with their truly powerful presence.
The Barberini works depict the life of Christ, and not only reflect the religious and social conditions of Biblical times but that of the Barberini family as well – their connection to the papacy in particular. At once ostentatious and personal, the tapestries include some of the Barberini family’s favourite motifs such as three bees driving a plough, symbolising the cardinal and his two brothers working together, collaborating for the betterment of Rome.
The Barberini Tapestries: Woven Monuments of Baroque Rome, 23 September 2017 - 21 January 2018
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, 1430 Johnson Lane Eugene, OR 97403