In the age of the Baroque, tapestries were among the most precious objects in any collection, lending a material splendor to the residences of the powerful. In the competition for magnificence that animated seventeenth-century Rome, the Barberini (the family of Pope Urban VIII) outdid all their rivals by founding their own tapestry workshop in 1625, creating custom-wove designs by such eminent artists as Peter Paul Rubens, Pietro da Cortona, and Giovanni Francesco Romanelli. This exhibition features one of the Barberini’s renowned series –Life of Christ – on loan from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether or not you go, Barberini Tapestries: Woven Monuments of Baroque Rome is the result of an intense conservation effort, which restored these magnificent works of art to their former glory after a fire burnt two of the tapestries and damaged four more in 2001. These tapestries are fragments of history: they were once displayed at St. Peter's Basilica and in the Sistine Chapel. This book is the first sustained scholastic treatment of the Life of Christ tapestries, which were commissioned by Pope Urban VIII's nephew, Cardinal Francesco Barberini. Covering over 2800 square feet, the series is one of the grandest monuments of seventeenth century Rome. A close reading of each panel sets the tapestries into a number of overlapping contexts; they indicate the stylistic advances of the high Baroque period, as well the political and social agendas of their patrons.