UO Art Museum to Show Rare 400-Year-Old Italian Tapestries



An exhibition of rare Italian tapestries will have an unveiling start on September 22 at Jordan Schnitzer Art Museum, the day before the official opening of the collection to the public.

Entitled “The Barberini Tapestries: Woven Monuments of Baroque Rome”, the exhibition presents one of Cardinal Frencesco Barberini’s most renowned series of tapestries, “The Life of Christ”, which is on loan from St. John’s Cathedral. -the-God of New York. A free public reception will be held on Friday, September 22, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The exhibition is the only tapestry exhibition on the west coast. It is organized by James Harper, professor of art history at UO, and Marlene Eidelheit, director of the textile conservation laboratory at Saint-Jean-le-Dieu Cathedral.

The series of 12 panels was designed by the Baroque master Giovanni Frencesco Romenelli in the 17th century. Although often on loan for ceremonies in the Vatican and other institutions in Rome, the tapestries were kept at the Barberini family palace before arriving in the United States at the end of the 19th century.

They are among the first gifts acquired by the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine and are considered one of the greatest treasures of Baroque art in the United States. Recently restored, this exhibition will offer a rare glimpse into 17th century Roman craftsmanship and imagination.

The panels are massive –– over 15 feet high and 12 to 19 feet long –– so they will be installed in the museum’s Soreng gallery. This space is usually devoted to Chinese art, but it was the only space large enough to accommodate the exhibition.

Museum staff created a piece within the room, making an innovative installation perfectly sized for tapestries.

“While most American museums hang tapestries like paintings, with plenty of white wall space around each object, our intention here is to recreate a ‘baroque hanging’ in the taste of the 17th century,” Harper said. “We are going to hang the tapestries to create an enveloping and enveloping effect. These things are meant to overwhelm the senses, and I think museum visitors will be amazed at the power of the experience.

Tapestries were one of the most prized items in a collection. Not only were they beautiful, but they were useful in keeping a palate warm and they could be easily transported.

Some of the “Life of Christ” tapestries were badly damaged by fire in 2001, but the Textile Conservation Lab has spent the past 16 years restoring them. Part of the exhibition will provide an overview of the methods used to restore damaged pieces to their former glory.

The pieces will also be accompanied by rare books, period objects and computer kiosks offering detailed background information. Interactive elements are available on the exhibition website website.

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday to Sunday. Admission is $ 5 for adults, $ 3 for seniors; and free for people aged 18 and under, members, students with ID cards, and UO faculty, staff and students.

For more information on “The Barberini Tapestries” exhibit, contact Debbie Williamson Smith at 541-346-0942 or [email protected]


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